I was up in the morning before Shane and decided to listen to the morning birds, as the air was ringing again. In order not to disturb him in the front, I went out the back and sat a little there then remembered that we had been getting on at the front because it was closer to the bank there. I walked along the gunwale until I felt confident to step on to to the bank. I walked to the hide and managed to see a sedge warbler from there. I was pleased to see it and could see it’s throat moving even though it was a distance away. A large wasp then entered the hide so I decided it was time to leave.
Apart from the wasp intrusion, it was a good start to the day. I hadn’t been stung by the wasp or stood on the dog (I guess) poo in the grass. I wish people wouldn’t think it isn’t necessary to pick it up in long grass “since people don’t walk there” as it isn’t true. Children may run in long grass picking flowers, people on narrow paths or the side of roads need to step there to pass others or avoid cars, people in boats need to step there and take the ropes they handle through the grass. It is harder to see there so harder to avoid. The river doesn’t have a normal towpath and there is quite a lot of long grass, but not as many walkers, so this was the first I had come across.
We made a prompt start. There was a cold wind from behind but lots of sun which is quite a sunburn risk as you don’t feel very hot, Shane reminded me it was a suncream day. I had long sleeves and my hair tied up but I had put on suncream on my face and neck and I had a wide brimmed hat. We were treated early on to a kingfisher sighting. It looked very bright indeed in the sunshine, just sitting on a branch. I had my camera out but so enjoyed looking at the actual bird and plumage close up I didn’t direct it well and had four photos of bush and sticks and no kingfisher.
I spotted a deer in the wooded area in the opposite bank. It had a fine pair of antlers and looked straight at us. It wasn’t obscured and it is right in the centre but still pretty hard to see at that distance.
As we passed some river moorings with poles to allow for rising water, a chirpy man remarked on the lovely weather and said the coronation should have been today. I don’t know what the forecast is for the Saturday. We saw one boat had been tied to tall sticks at the back of its platform and not the front like the others. Consequently it had landed on its jetty and was dumped there when the flood subsided, not so good. We saw another boat up on the other bank that had suffered a similar fate. The chirpy chap called out after us to tell us there was a submerged boat in the water a couple of miles ahead. It was marked with buoys he told us.
When we reached the first lock it was staffed by two lock keepers and one of them had donned the wide brimmed sunhat too. I heard them saying they should tell us something and agreed that one would tell “the one at the front”, and the other would tell “the one at the back”. The woman approached and told me the tall pillars were recently oiled. She reached to get the rope before the pillar but I thought I would pass it to her after so it didn’t get oil on it. Shane was not near a suitable small bollard so she put it round of of the oily pillars but with care and he held it loosely. The front gets a lot more movement and I needed to hold my rope firmly.
Before we left the lock, the lockkeeper told us there was a sunken boat marked with red buoys between two places I had never heard of but it hadn’t caused people any trouble…except people did keep warning us about it.
By the next lock it was getting close to lunchtime. Shane had made a loaf and it was in the oven. It would be ready by the time we were out of the lock. This one was unmanned so I went o operate it and saw that the lock gate had a gate. I have never met this before.
The lock was ready to open so although I went on to the first bridge to look for instructions I hadn’t really needed to as there were none. I opened the gate and took a photo of the little gate which looked all the more incongruous when it was no longer possible to cross.
It was a simple latch and I found at the other gate there was another gate but with a broken latch fitting. They looked a recent addition and would not prevent anyone walking there . These locks were worked the same as all the others, with two differences, extra gates and a sign telling you to leave the lock empty. This is different from most locks and meant that while Shane got started on the hot bread, I went back to the other end and emptied the lock and closed the paddles.
When we were almost finished lunch another boat appeared. We have seen very few moving boats so it was quite a surprise but there was plenty room for him to pull in just beyond us next to the lock. It was a lone boater and I wondered if he needed help. He took a while sorting ropes and kept looking towards the lock. He might have been expecting it to be staffed. He walked up and started trying to open the gates. He tried several ways. Started to turn the wheels but not far enough to make a difference. He hadn’t noticed the lock was empty and needed filled. He looked toward us and I asked if he was okay? We went over and explained that the lock was empty as the notice had said. He said that had thrown him as he’d seen us looking like we had just left it so expected it to be set his way. He went to open a gate but at the side away from his boat. I said that it looked like he needed both open as it was a wider boat than ours and he said unfortunately yes, so I suggested I do the far side so he could get back to his boat from the near side and he agreed this was a good idea. He said this was his first day out for 18 months and he was forgetting how things worked. Ah good, he wasn’t drunk or incompetent on a swollen river! We helped by operating the lock for him so he could stay aboard and he thanked us on departure saying he’d have been there about a fortnight otherwise. We told him to enjoy himself and make good use of his extra fortnight.
We set off and after a bit Shane needed a quick break and handed me the helm. In no time at all I saw a red buoy and his “if going upstream keep your port side to the right of it” or some such combination and I yelled on him to come back. This didn’t make for a comfortable comfort stop. As we got closer, the most suitable route was more obvious. It still wasn’t the sunken boat as I had thought it would be.
There was a warning sign about a narrow bridge and to give way to oncoming traffic. Everywhere has been quite quiet but here there were a lot of boats moored up and people at a pub. There were no oncoming boats though so Shane powered up expecting rushing water through the single arch. I stood up to take a picture and he batted me to the side to get a clear sight. Normally it is possible to look round or even to ask someone to sit, and there didn’t seem a risk of me banging my head, it was just he needed to hold the tiller hard in strong water and the fast turning engine and was afraid of ramming the side.
It wasn’t too long before we did come across the sunken boat though, right on a corner. The buoys were not beside it but a distance away to tell you to avoid the shallow water as had been the case at the last red buoy. They just didn’t want you giving the obstruction such a bit swerve that you hit the reeds.
At the next lock we received more warnings. The cows in Lechlade chew ropes and canvas and this was the last water point for a while. We took advantage of the water. Shane was glad he had been told about the rule to use the right length of hose here on the Thames. We don’t know what you do if you have the wrong hose or can’t get moored with your water tank that close . We may have to deal with that in the way back.
While stopped at the water, Shane looked in the weed hatch as he though we were weeded but it was all clear so we don’t know what the matter was. There was a swan’s nest and some interesting topiary. The swan is uncharacteristically dwarfed by the cat but unperturbed.
We made a couple of mooring attempts but couldn’t get close enough in. A passing cyclist gave advice for a better spot further on. We found a good spot but aren’t sure it is the one he meant. We know someone else has moored here though as I found a hammer lying in the long grass for spikes, near where we were putting in ours. We have two hammers already but I wonder if they have a spare. They have put their boat name on though so perhaps we will find them on the way back as they are based near the narrow bridge.
It was just warm enough in the front for an Al fresco tea and I noticed as we came in that the back of Shane’s knees are sunburnt. This never happens cycling. He gave me the warning but he didn’t put any cream on.