Up Stream

We sat for almost a week in Thrupp, and really enjoyed the friendly, relaxed atmosphere on the towpath.  After a few short chats on the towpath about common interests spread over a period of days, people start to feel like friends.  We often don’t even know their names, and refer to them by their boat name or location.

Today was the first day our Thames licence was valid, and by coincidence, the first day that none of the stretches of the river were “Red” – stream too strong for safe navigation.  The chap on the boat behind us had cycled off to the shops just before we set off.  It felt almost rude not to wait and say goodbye.  We spotted him cycling back along the towpath and waved goodbye that way.

Just before the second lock we stopped to have lunch, and then moved on to the junction with the Dukes Cut.  I was pleased to see that though we’d travelled less than three miles, the batteries were fully charged.  Those new panels are making a huge difference.

We wanted to go in to Oxford for some shopping.  We have almost run out of instant decaffeinated coffee.  Finding Fairtrade varieties can be tricky.  We knew that a well-known retailer (other well-known retailers are available) would be likely to have some in the middle of Oxford.  The canal goes that way, but would be quite slow.  We found a possible mooring spot just beyond the junction, so we decided it would be quicker to cycle in to town instead.

We needed the gangplank to get the tandem ashore and then I used my recently acquired track pump to get the tyres up to pressure.  That was a lot easier than the little emergency pump I’ve been using up until now.

A view along a towpath with a hedge on one side. Leaning in the hedge is a tandem. A man is using a large track pump to inflate the front tyre.  A narrowboat is moored nearby.
Shane Pumping It Up

The route in to the City was surprisingly pleasant.  We followed the towpath for a while, and followed NCN route 5 through low-traffic traffic-calmed streets to the centre.  We got back to find that one of our mooring pins had been pulled out by a boat passing too fast.  I was able to hop on at the front and pass Clare the back rope again.  We tied up tight enough to get the gangplank down again for reboarding.

Clare went to prepare the lock while I reversed back to the junction.  The canal was surprisingly crowded here.  There were two boats waiting to go towards Thrupp, and one coming the other way.  Nobody else wanted to go the way we were going though, so we didn’t have to queue.  The folk on the boat coming the other way recognised us from Thrupp.  They skilfully just missed bumping us.  I complimented his skill, but told him it was lucky we had only put one coat of paint on yesterday – if it had been two he’d have hit us.

A narrow stone lined canal disappears under a brick arch bridge.  A narrowboat is coming towards us under the bridge.  It will have to stop at the lock gate, just visible in the foreground.
Bartimaeus Approaching the Dukes Cut Lock

With that excitement over, I nosed under the bridge to see if Clare was ready yet.  She had lifted the paddle, but the lock didn’t seem to be emptying.  I knew the lock gear here was odd, but I didn’t know any more than that.  We both decided that there was only one remaining control to operate.  It appeared to control the paddles at the other end of the lock.  The instructions showed which way to raise and to turn no more than three times.  With some effort, Clare lowered three turns.

A woman heaves on a windlass attached to a large black and white painted canal-side block.  Alock gate is visible in the background.
Tombstone or Lock Mechanism?

That seemed to do it.  The level gradually changed and we were able to enter the lock. The same mechanism allowed us to fill the lock again and let us out on to the Thames.  The first section had a large number of somewhat run-down moored boats.  I have heard complaints about the state of this section of the waterways, but it just looks to me like people living their lives on a small budget – good luck to them!

View down a canal from the helm.  A tiller is visible in the foreground.  Both sides of the canal are lined with moored boats and trees.
Boats in the Dukes Cut

I started the diesel engine and powered up the bow thruster as we approached a junction, I didn’t want to be caught out by unexpectedly strong currents.  At the first junction there was no problem turning up stream.  As we slowly  approached a weir on a bend though, I realised that we were not going round the corner.  The nose was in the stream and being pulled straight on.  A burst of speed from the propellor and a short blast from the bow thruster easily sorted that out.

Once on the main river it was very relaxing.  The stream is quite strong and this section of the river is very meandering, but it isn’t difficult to steer.  We’d just realised it was already dinner time when we spotted a field that seemed to offer an easy mooring spot.  I reduced speed so that we were matching the river flow and steered the bow slowly in to the bank so that Clare could hop off with the rope.  With the bow securely moored, I hopped back on and threw Clare the stern rope.

A narrowboat moored at the side of a field.  The gunwale of the narrowboat is at the same level as the field. The opposite bank is tree-lined.
Mooring Beside a Field

This is a very peaceful spot, though we did have a slightly disconcerting visit from a herd of cattle.  They were a mixture of cows, young calves and a bull.  The calves took a lot of interest in our mooring lines, and especially the plastic milk cartons we use as protective markers.  When the cattle had moved off I retrieved the cartons – we don’t want to be responsible for a calf eating one.  Licking the mooring lines shouldn’t hurt any of us.