We cast off from Godstow at 09.05, and we hadn’t been motoring for very long before we came across an 18ft cabin cruiser drifting aimlessly in the river. The boat’s owner reported to us that he couldn’t start the engine, and asked if he could be towed. Martin agreed to tow him, and threw him a line to secure the boat. When asked where he was going, he replied that he was trying to get to Eynsham. That was only two locks away, so we agreed that we would tow him to Swinford lock.
Just before we reached Swinford, the sun was shining and we passed Hawthorn in full bloom, and this reminded Martin of his mum, when on a previous boating holiday she had said on a number of occasions “Smell the May!”We left the cabin cruiser at Swinford lock with grateful occupant. His wife very kindly presented us with a bunch of orange tulips, and a bottle of wine for bringing her husband home. That was the third bottle of wine we had received on our trip, we were building up quite a stock on the boat!
We reached Northmoor lock to find that there was a narrow boat already in it coming downstream. It looked like the occupants owned the boat, but didn’t seem terribly competent handling it, cautious in the extreme would be a good way to describe it, resulting a in a lack of steering ability. While we waited for them to vacate the lock another small cruiser joined us in the queue. Both boats finally entered the lock, and I began to close the gates. Martin waved for me to stop and open them again, as another boat was now waiting to go through. Martin indicated to the other boat to come in, but the helmsman decided that he would wait (we were not sure why as there was plenty of room). So I closed the gates again.
We had arranged to meet Mark and Alison at The Rose Revived, Newbridge. We moored there at 13.00, and enjoyed a light lunch with them. We cast off again to continue our journey at 14.00. As we left, Mark waved us off from the bridge.
The river now became more difficult to navigate, there were lots of twists and turns, and much to Martin’s annoyance the trees had not been pruned for some years, making for what Martin termed a ‘steering nightmare’ and resulting in potential dangerous situations. It was almost impossible to see round some corners, forcing us to take the river on the wrong side, and sometimes forcing us into shallow water and more overhanging trees. These situations could be easily avoided if there was some form of regular maintenance performed. These issues greatly reduced our speed meaning that are estimated time of arrival had to be continually updated.
Again we saw lots of wildlife including Curlews, House Martins, Reed Buntings, and a Water Vole that scurried along the bank at the waters edge very close by. We have also seen a number of King Fishers on our travels, which we haven’t mentioned yet as well.We passed uneventfully through Shifford, Rushey and Radcot locks. After Radcot lock the challenge was to get through Radcot bridge as it is rather narrow. I challenged Martin by saying “If you can get through this bridge without touching the sides, you can have an Eccles cake” (It was about one of the only sweet treats left we had on the boat). He did splendidly, and the Eccles cake was duly awarded, and consumed within about five seconds flat!
As we approached Buscot lock, we could see someone filming us from the bridge. There was a Brompton folding bike next to them, and we soon realised that it was Mark, who had mentioned the day before that he would meet us at St John’s lock. We were making slow progress in the boat, so Mark had cycled up to Buscot to meet us. We saw him set off on his bike towards Buscot lock, and by the time we reached the lock ourselves, the gates were open and the lock ready to receive us.
However, Buscot is not the easiest lock, having previously experienced the effect of the water in it as the paddles are opened. As the paddles are opened water coming in forces the boat backwards, and the water hits the rear gates, and then with greater force pushes the boat forward. Martin knew this would happen and we took the precaution of roping tightly, fore and aft. However, Buscot lock had the last word again as the stern rope snapped! Luckily Martin hadn’t turned the engine off, and was able to engage reverse gear, whilst I continued to hold tightly to the bow rope (of course I think it was the skilled holding of the rope at the bow rather than the work of the engine that prevented any further mishap!). We asked Mark to close the sluices while we regained control and re-secured the stern.
After leaving Buscot lock we were now in sight of the steeple on St Lawrence church in Lechlade. We were nearly home, one more lock before the home straight. As we approached the last couple of bends in the river before St John’s lock, we saw some of our friends from Lechlade waving at us from the bridge. We could hear melodious sounds wafting towards us. They were singing, although we couldn’t work out what at the time. We tooted our horn (now more of a squeak, since its bashing under Osney and Godstow bridges), and then passed underneath the bridge to cheers and applause from our friends.We reached St John’s lock at 19.00, and Mark was filming again when we arrived. We were also met by Jennie and Jamie, Jan (who had helped us at Osney bridge), and Carla, Lone and their two dogs Elvis and Oompa. We tied up in the lock, and closed the gates. Before operating the lock we hugged and kissed one another. It was wonderful to be met by people who had supported us throughout our journey via the blog, Facebook and text.After operating the lock, we moored up just beyond it to allow everyone (including the two dogs) to travel back with us as far as the Riverside pub, as Martin and I wanted to do the last 300 metres to our mooring alone. We moored alongside Lark Rise (Martin’s narrow boat) it was the end of our journey, but the start of the next chapter.
This is not the end of the blog though, as we plan to add more information in the way of maps, navigation charts that include distances, expenses and fuel consumption, and there are a couple of video’s that we will also be adding to this post. We also have a lot of work to do on her yet, so will post about our progress with that.