Sunday, 30 April 2017

Oxford and Beyond

We continued down the length of the Oxford canal …..


…. passing through Somerton Deep Lock. At 12 feet it’s probably one of the deepest locks on the system. With the very pretty cottage next to it, it’s a well known landmark.


Our mooring for Sunday night was Thrupp – a tiny village but a very welcoming one to narrow boaters.


Quite by chance narrow boater, and blogger friend, Maffi (nb “Milly M”) was ‘in port’ when we arrived in Thrupp and we just had to meet up with him in The Boat for a few pints together. Grand evening Maffi – thank you for your company!


After our evening with Maffi  we were on our way Monday morning, reaching Oxford by mid afternoon. We were pleased to find our favourite mooring free.  Just a few yards from Hythe Bridge Road and a five minute walk to the city centre, it’s not an easy mooring to get at as it’s a 100 yards down a dead end with no way of turning – so you either have to reverse down or reverse back wards.


That evening our friends Marcy and Phil drove over from their home in Abingdon to spend the evening with us – and a lovely time we all had together.


On Tuesday James ‘slipped the leash’ and had an afternoon wandering around this “city of dreaming spires” by himself – a place he’s very familiar with and which holds many memories for him. Oxford can’t be experienced without reference to some of the most stunning architecture to be found anywhere. Oxford University was founded in 1161 and Balliol (above) dating to 1263 has a good claim of being the oldest of the colleges.


The Sheldonian Theatre is a stunning building both inside and out. It was built in the mid 1600’s after a design by Sir Christopher Wren.


Oxford has its own Bridge of Sighs. Built in 1930, two years after Cambridge built theirs as Oxford could not be outdone! The one in Cambridge is built over a lovely river but Oxford had to make do with a road! It is, however, a beautiful construction.


The oldest pub in the city, and one of the most difficult buildings to find, is The Turf Tavern. Its use can be dated back to 1381 when it was called the Spotted Cow. Due to it’s reputation as a centre for horse betting it was renamed the Turf Tavern. It was used many times in the filming of the TV series ‘Morse’. [it’s location can be found down a narrow alley, on the left, just past the Bridge of Sighs]


A visit to the Botanical Gardens is a delight – especially on a sunny, if somewhat chilly, day in April! This is the original gateway into the gardens with the bell tower of Magdalen College behind.


On the edge of the Botanic Gardens runs a back water of the River Isis. (traditionally the River Thames, as it runs through Oxford, is called the Isis) – and an old traditional Oxford pastime is punting. It’s a pity they didn’t tell him that he’s standing at the wrong end of the punt!


This is a view of the High Street with some of those wonderful ‘dreaming spires’ which Oxford is famous for. The number of Grade I listed buildings in Oxford is exceptional!


On of the oldest buildings in the High Street is the University Church of St Mary. It’s been the official church of Oxford University since the 1200s and is the resting place of Dr John Radcliffe.


John Radcliffe died in 1714 and left £40,000 to the university (equivalent to £500 million today). From the original sum the Radcliff Camera (above), the Radcliffe Infirmary and the Radcliffe Observatory were built and the trust still exists today.


At the head of the High Street is Carfax Tower from the top of which you can get the most amazing views of the city.


This view from the tower (on the right) shows Christchurch College and Christchurch Cathedral (which serves as the college chapel!) 


The Ashmolean Museum is a must to visit – a day is not enough!


And, opposite the Ashmolean is the fabulous five star Randolf Hotel.


On Tuesday evening we had visits from two friends. Debbie (one of James’ oldest and dearest friends). The catch-up conversation was so animated and hectic that we forgot to take a photo! (sorry Debs!) and Paul, who by chance arrived in the afternoon from his home in York for a work appointment. Here we are having a great Thai meal nearby.


On Wednesday we left dear old Oxford, passing through Louse lock with it’s elegant cast iron footbridge, and headed onto the River Thames.


Its always a great delight to be on “Old Father Thames” – probably our favourite waterway. After the rather underwhelming Osney lock, and still technically in Oxford, comes the delightful setting of Iffley Lock.


Onward to Abingdon lock, and our stopover for the night, and we get a rather sarcastic and humorous warning from the lock keeper!


This is our very pleasant mooring below the bridge in Abingdon.


That evening, at Abingdon, we had a visit from friends Simon and Steve who drove from their home nearby to spend the evening with us. We hadn’t seen these boys for quite a while so a catch-up was very necessary. Thanks for coming to see us guys!


Onward the next day and the Thames throws up something wonderful at every turn on it’s meandering course through Oxfordshire and into Berkshire. This stunning brick built bridge at Clifton Hampden is by Sir George Gilbert Scott.


The approach to Day’s Lock is dominated by the famous Wittenham Clumps.


Just after Day’s Lock is the confluence of the River Thame with the River Thames (rather confusingly!). It’s upstream of this point that the Thames has been historically known as the Isis.


On a very tight bend in the river at Shillingford we start to get a taste of some of the truly impressive residences that share their frontage with the water.


The quiet ancient market town of Wallingford had the privilege of our company on Thursday night. Today there are still quite a few buildings dating back to the 16th century which survive to this day.


The town may have had the privilege of our company but we had the privilege of the company of boating friends Sue and Vic (wb “No Problem XL”) who were moored just upstream of where we pitched up for the night. We were invited onto their new, and very impressive, wide beam boat for drinks - which went on until quite late!  A grand evening was had by all and thanks to you both for your company and comfort aboard the marvellous “No Problem XL”


A serene scene of the river from Wallingford’s seventeen arch bridge (!) – we’re moored far centre of the pic. So far the weather has been good, if a little parky occasionally, and the river has behaved itself with just a gentle flow to help us on our way. We look forward to the rest of this magical waterway.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

An Island visit and then “Chance” at last!


The Easter weekend had us travelling to the Isle of Wight for a couple of days. The journey across the Solent just had to be done on the new hovercraft, which has recently been brought into service. This craft never ceases to impress as it slides gracefully from sea to land ……..


……. and then settles down, skirt deflated, onto it’s hardstanding ready to disgorge it’s passengers.


Within minutes a full compliment of passengers were offloaded and then it was our turn to step aboard.


Being almost the first to get on we briefly had the entire craft to ourselves. It’s very much like boarding a plane with very similar layout – just a lot shorter! Ten minutes after leaving the mainland we arrived in Ryde and were met by friends Jonathan and Graham.


They took us straight to one of our favourite places on the island for a cup of coffee and to meet up with his parents Sylvia and John who we hadn’t seen for quite a while. Here we all are enjoying the delights of Bembridge Harbour.


After going back to Jonathan’s to dump our overnight gear, and to enjoy a celebratory glass of bubbly to mark the occasion of meeting Graham for the first time, we headed off for a walk over Bembridge Downs and onto one of the many fabulous beaches the island has to offer.


Varied and spectacular beach scenery to be enjoyed.


Here we are on our way back across Bembridge Down after spending some time fossil hunting along the beach.


Back at Jonathan’s home we sat outside and watched the evening sunset and the awesome views which he enjoys every day.


This is the huge obelisk on Bemdridge Down which Jonathon calls one of his “garden ornaments”! 


After a lovely meal in the local pub, and a very good night’s sleep, we headed off on Saturday morning for another good walk along the cliffs towards Sandown.


Graham, Jonathan and Doug at the half way point.


Deciding that the beach looked a more interesting place to walk we took a precipitous route down the cliffs where there had been one the island’s many landslips. A good fifty acres of land, probably a few hundred years, decided to head towards the sea and neatly slipped down to reveal a new cliff some two hundred yards further back. Sadly this natural phenomena continues to this day and the island is steadily loosing ground.


On the beach, and heading towards our brunch at a café in Yaverland there was some interesting features to see for those with a geological bent. (James!).


Well, our 24 hour visit to the island, and the tremendously enjoyable catch-up with Jonathan and Graham, came to an end and they took us back to the hover terminal at Ryde for the journey back to (as the Islanders call it) the “north island”. It’s great to watch as this unique method of transport glides smoothly but rather noisily onto the concrete standing. We had a brilliant short stay on the island and thanks so much Jonathan and Graham for such an enjoyable 24 hours – marvellous to be on the Island again!


Another 24 hours was to pass and we were up at Barby marina, loaded up “Chance”, did the necessary inspections before taking to the waterways for the first time this year. “Chance” weathered the winter extremely well and all that was needed was to attach the Taff rail and dodger at the stern, carry out the engine checks and press the start button.


Here’s James, doing a short stint as a lone boater, while Doug transferred the car to Braunston - our destination for the first night..


Our stay at Braunston was enhanced wonderfully and dramatically with a visit by boating friends Del and Al (nb “Derwent 6”). Here we are in the Plough having dinner together. There was much laughter and mucking about ………   


….. as can be seen in these pics. This was a Facebook contest to decide on the best looking couple! Thanks Del and Al for an amazing evening (as always!).


From Braunston we headed down the Oxford canal which was made all the more delightful by the springtime country views.


As we were experiencing the “Blackthorn Winter” (a traditional couple of weeks of cold weather during the flowering of the Blackthorn) there was a comforting wisp of smoke out of the chimney from the stove below.


Getting to the bottom of the Napton flight of locks for our second overnight mooring, we caught up with another couple of boating friends, Sian and Mark (nb “Mochyn Du”). There was another great catch-up we enjoyed over a lovely meal in The Wharf that night. Here we are :- Sian, Doug, Mark and James with the landlord, Mark (who provided some astonishing entertainment for us with his card tricks.


After another good night’s sleep we were on our way again, starting our journey up the Napton flight with the help of Sian and Mark – bless them!


Thanks to you both for a grand evening and help with the locks.


After the Napton lock flight we were on the top “pound” of the Oxford canal and enjoying mile after lockless mile of gorgeous countryside.


Wonderful ! - this has to be ultimate definition of tranquillity.


We stopped for our third overnight mooring at Fenny Compton were we met up, for the first time, with internet correspondents and boaters Rick and Tim. Here’s Doug, Rick, and Tim with their dog on board “Chance” before going to the pub for a meal together. It was great to meet these guys at last!


Up and away again the next morning we continued our enjoyment of the Oxford canal. So much to look and wonder at – here’s a wonderful rookery, very visible at the moment before the trees come into leaf to hide it.


The southern section of the Oxford canal is regularly punctuated with lift bridges.


Thankfully these days they are all left in the raised position, saving us a great deal of time and effort.


Here’s “Chance” temporarily moored up and waiting for the lock at the pretty village of Cropredy …….


……… and after that we were soon moored up in Banbury to do a bit of shopping. Very few boats around at this time giving us as much mooring space as we liked!


Further on, after the shopping was done, we continued south towards Oxford, getting on and off the short bit of the river Cherwell buy using a couple of these very strangely shaped locks to do it.