The Model

We were able to stay in Abingdon for three nights but we like to see the next thing and the place would be quieter on a Sunday. Or perhaps not, no park run but the geese honked early and when we set off the church bells were peeling. The river wasn’t quiet, Shane first had to go through a bridge and the channel narrowed, with a pub on an island in the middle of the channel. It opened out again after the island but using up the centre were a group of small yachts practising going round buoys and it looked very hard going as they ducked under the sail and changed direction coping with the sail manipulation accounting for the wind and change of speed with from upstream to downstream and back again and they had little or no spare energy to watch for other boats that were passing. I didn’t envy Shane steering round them and avoiding the larger boats coming the other way.

Coming towards the sailing boats , keeping to the left
All behind us but had to move over to the right of the channel to avoid them and an oncoming boat

Apart from toy boats, I haven’t encountered such small sailing boats and they looked difficult to steer. Mind you I have pretty much left all the steering to Shane on the river and occasionally giving him breaks for a minute. We are really doing half days and this day was no exception as I did plenty knitting in the sunshine and admired the scenery and rather a lot of red kites.

It was lovely weather but not easy to find mooring so we had a late lunch arriving at a lock where we could moor. Even better the enterprising lock keeper had ice creams and lollies for sale. When we went to get them, it was busier than expected with three boats, a license to be purchased and a boat full trying to choose five ice creams and remember their orders and bantering with everyone….he wasn’t sure whether the lock or ice-cream selling kept him busiest.

Refreshed we had a short walk to the village of Clifton Hampden. The shop was unsurprisingly closed but we didn’t need anything. There were quite a few thatched cottages, in a variety of shapes and sizes and a cute church and some noisy turkeys.

Old thatched buildings showing various stages of extensions and renovation and a mix of thatch and slate
1 Watery Lane, Clifton Hampden
A recent build from the 1890s

When we returned another boat was moored behind us and another came in front. It was rather more than there is meant to be but by that time in the day the jaunty lock keeper would soon be going home and he was happy enough to have a few there. The next morning they had both gone by the time we had made a late appearance. We went into the lock and got a cheery wave, from a different lock keeper. Another boat joined us in the lock, a woman on her own, Early Byrd, and clearly a nifty rope handler. The keeper went to help her unwrap her ropes, once the boat was at the bottom of the lock, but she had them all back on her boat before he had reached her. A red and yellow flag fluttered at the front but I can’t find out what it represents. She was too far back for me to ask.

Sharing a lock with Early Byrd

She intended mooring before the next lock and so did we. The lock keeper had warned us of some very stiff winds and this might make turning and steering challenging. Shane seemed to be managing well. We continued to see many red kites flying low and you could see them angling their tails to steer in the wind.

We didn’t want to steal her spot but her boat was slightly smaller so might fit where ours didn’t. We found nowhere suitable and neither did she so we went through the next lock together too. To our surprise it was the lock keeper we had seen at the previous lock yesterday. Both of us told him we weren’t looking for ice cream today. He went to help with Early Byrd’s ropes and advised her to stay in the boat as it was a big drop and would be easier – so easy she’d be able to hold the ropes and make a soufflĂ© while doing it. She said she wasn’t a good cook. As the water level lowered she asked if she had enough rope for the seven foot drop as she was near the end. He called to go on her tiptoes and put her tutu on. He gave us some suggestions for mooring spots ahead as there were none here. Shane offered to help her moor in the wind, if needed.

When we got there the spaces were already taken. Early Byrd looked to have pulled in to a smaller space and be asking passers by to help. We turned round and headed back. We tried coming in but the back was too high and rough. We set off again and met her next to the side but not moored. She concluded it was no good and she should just keep going. We hope she found somewhere. I saw another redkite, but this time it was a toy one with a long ribbon. Someone was enjoying playing on a windy day.

We went back to the lock where the keeper was surprised to see us back so soon and we went against a field of sheep where you can book to pay on line. A previous mooorer had left a spike – that made it easier.

Mooring spike, handily placed and casual sheep unfazed by our arrival.

We had a plan to get to a museum we had seen a sign for the day before. It was open today but not tomorrow but was still two miles away from us. Shane’s original plan to cycle was abandoned as he was unsure of the possibility of kissing gates or the quality of the paths.

We didn’t know what to expect having only heard that it had some diagrams, but discovered it was about early modelling of villages and train tracks and had an audio tour you could activate on the way round on whatever topic you liked and get more information if you wanted. It was very simple and made it easy to choose your pace. There was information on how models were made as well as the models themselves.

Measuring a house to plan models
Model of a village built in the 1940s

We met a man controlling a railway and he said he was going to put it in night mode. It was a surprise to find the model had tiny working lights on the signals, side of the tracks and inside trains imitating gas lamps. He made it dark and sent a train round. Later he was confused as another train moved that he was not expecting. There were camera shots of different bits of the track. beside his control console.

Tiny lamps lit by the railway
A busy station and buses

The last section was even bigger and showed life and social history and the same detail was applied as to the railway models. It was very reminiscent of what we had seen the day before but with no TV aerials.

Thatched and half timbered houses with white picket fences and washing outside
Cottages complete with log pile, churns, dog, car outside and tandem next to the tile roofed house
House from yesterday
Model from yesteryear
Thatched houses with tandem outside, from model scene
Thatched house and garden in Clifton Hampden