Yesterday was a cold day, very grey. There was no lock keeper today for asking advice.The water levels were decreasing though so it seemed a good time to set off. So we were leaving the lovely nature reserve with countless birds and deer nearby.
Shane wanted to try out doing the lock. I have done very little driving and felt like I’d lost it a bit when I did a bounce through the gate. Then remembered advice on rope holding, but it was related to going up and we were now going down and the rope trapped on itself and began straining and I was unable to release it. Shane fortunately responded promptly to a shout to stop emptying the lock. So it all sorted out. The rope was intact, it was only my nerves that were frayed.
At the next lock there were lock keepers and that all ran very smoothly. Shane seemed to be managing the driving in the downstream so either the next reaches were easier or it was the change in water level that made it more manageable. We saw a kingfisher and some swifts, which brightened the dull day.
When we reached the last lock before our planned mooring, there was a large boat coming in to it, coming the other way. Two young girls were managing the lock well and unassisted apart from encouraging comments from their dad. Shane drove in and another couple approached and said could they watch. I turned the wheels to empty the lock and they watched with interest and offered a helping hand with the gates.
The mooring spot beyond the gates left plenty of space for people approaching the lock except there was such a strong side stream and it seem to be coming our way and there was a little movement despite a tight mooring. We had considered mooring above the lock but there was already a boat there and we were not sure where the next available space would be.
We had a pleasant evening stroll and saw an egret in a field then it flew into a tree, so I was pleased to be there. And there were some interesting statues in the field. On the way back from our evening stroll the bridge over the weir did look like the flow was coming straight at us.
We had survived the return of the large boat bashing into us as it swept our way, with much apologising from the crew. The view through the window of a double width Dutch tjalk hoving rapidly towards us was a surprise.
In the morning we were happily still attached and enjoyed watching a cormorant repeatedly diving in the rough outflow, it seemed to be revelling in the wilder water. Even more of a surprise was seeing a young man going in wearing shorts and emerging on to the bank a short distance down, strip off and dry himself, dress and leave. We wonder if it was a regular morning routine.
I had a stroll in the wood nearby and picked up a lot of birdcalls. Apart from the terns, not many were visible. One bird was seen but not heard.
Toy owl sitting on a fallen tree
We set off just as another boat arrived and were glad to be out of its way as it was moving rapidly into the space we had just vacated. We worked through King’s Lock rather than returning to the Dukes cut which had been our route in to the Thames. The morning slowly brightening, we were in sunshine by the time we reached the lock before Port Meadow on the outskirts of Oxford.. The sign for the lock had said we should operate it. It looked quite different , with a mixture of wheels, levers and buttons, but a lock keeper appeared and said to leave it to her and talked us through it all. She had recourse to different means of operating it too.
This section had lots of coxed and coached rowing practice as well as canoes and horses.
Horse in the water at Port Meadow
We have found mooring before the next lock, heralded by a heron, and guarded by geese on Osney Island. It is a short walk to town. We had a lovely lunch and sunny afternoon in Oxford, admiring an early photography exhibition, along with the early buildings and a printing press.