Saturday, 28 September 2013



IMG_0799  Moored below Kidlington Green Lock

Below Kidlington Green Lock


We arrived in Banbury last Monday and in doing so we have completed a ring of three hundred and fifty one miles. It has taken us five months to do it, so it doesn’t need any great mathematical skill to deduce that it is not a record breaking trip for speed.

But it has been a very memorable one. We have visited and seen many different and interesting places and though I did the trip three years ago on my own, this time with two companions I enjoyed a complete new experience, which I hope you have enjoyed too in the previous postings.


IMG_0829  Tinges of Autumn brown in the trees

In spite of the summer weather, tinges of autumn showing in the trees



Taking on water at tidy Thrupp


On Monday afternoon as we approached Banbury Lock, both ships were given an unexpected hand by a lady who introduced herself as one of the blog readers. Candy’s help was greatly appreciated, especially with the lift bridge which otherwise takes some detailed planning take two single handed boats through without disturbing the life of pedestrians too much. It was lovely also to be hailed by a stranger who reads what I write. Thank you Candy for both your help and reading loyalty.


100_4394  Two 57 footers in Aynho Weir Lock

Aynho Weir lock takes two 57 footers at the same time


Since then Janis has set off by coach for Newark and she will be away for a few days, while sister Sharon re-joined us on Tuesday to look after ‘Roots and Wings’ in the meantime, having returned from her trip to Greece. Next Friday Sharon finally leaves us after a glorious summer, to return to Australia where she lives. Her companionship as well as her crewing and planning expertise will be greatly missed I know.


IMG_0827  The mooring at Kirtlington

Quiet and peaceful mooring at Kirtlington


As is usual there is much going on in Banbury at the moment. On Wednesday evening Sharon and I went to the Folk Club at the nearby Mill where we were so thrilled by the professionalism of the performing local talent that I’m sure I shall go again next week. I need to have my Russell Newbery serviced by John at Tooley’s while Janis needs ‘Roots and Wings’ to be dry-docked for blacking, so we should also be around for the now famed ‘Banbury Canal Day’ celebrations, including ‘Theatre in the Dock’, when the ancient dry-dock (circa 1790) is turned into a theatre. This should be good fun and I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime I am very happy to soak up the ambience of my old home town. Even though the shop front names in the shopping mall are changed each time I visit, the atmosphere remains the same. The character of the people hasn’t altered at all since when I was a lad. Though the faces are not the same over the many years, the quality and nature has not changed so that they appear to be the same person over different generations; That dirty bearded fellow still dosses on a cold winter night on the seat in the bus shelter open to the elements, as he has done for centuries, while the same table by the door at the ‘Fleur de Lys’ pub, providing quick access outside for a few puffs in between drinks, is still surrounded by the taciturn group of men that I am sure have been there every day for fifty years. Not that I have been there myself each time to find out of course, but you know what I mean. Change takes a long time in Banbury.

Though I have no ties here in Banbury any more, my deep roots  will always remain.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Onto the Oxford Canal

After spending a glorious month on the busy and magnificent River Thames, our two little ships now find themselves on the relative backwater that is the Oxford Canal.

Today it is trying very hard to rain as forecast, so since we have a day to spare in order to arrive in Banbury at the right time to rendezvous with Janis’ sister Sharon returning from her Greek Island adventure, we have decided to spend a quiet day at our current mooring just below Kidlington Green Lock. Here the silence is almost pure, there being just the gentle sigh of a breeze in the trees, the occasional patter of rain on the cratch cover and the quiet babble of water leaking through the nearby lock gate to interfere with it.

We have become so accustomed and spoilt over the last month having others look after us in the giant locks of the Thames that on our way out of the river on the Dukes Cut yesterday, we felt very strange and clumsy when challenged in quick succession with a narrow lock, an immediate very low and narrow bridge and then a sharp narrow left hand bend into a second narrow lock.  After so long on the wide expanse of the river, imagine the confusion aboard. When we were settled in the top lock and gently rising with the incoming water I had to make myself a cup of coffee to recuperate but then had to hurry it on as somebody else was waiting to pass down through the lock. We learned very quickly, if perhaps a little gruesomely, that we were back on the narrow but endearing Oxford Canal.

But our last two days on the river were wonderful and will always be memorable. Before making the last passage from Oxford to the canal we were moored opposite green and lush Christchurch Meadow just below Folly Bridge where busy Oxford rushed about its business overhead on the road and  large Salters Steamers and many rowing crews, from single sculls up to full ‘eights’ dashed past on the wide river beside us.


100_4383  'The High'

The ‘High’ Oxford


100_4382  Roll of Honour Book at Christchurch Cathedral

The World War One Roll of Honour Book Christchurch Cathedral


100_4390  The first Oxfam shop

The world’s first Oxfam Shop in the ‘Broad’…..



…. with its plaque

100_4387  The Bridge of Sides

Janis at the Bridge of Sides


While the weather did its best, Janis and I spent a whole day touring the city. We never saw everything of course but were happy with the places we did visit including Sainsbury’s in the Westgate Shopping Centre, which we called at finally for well needed provisions. The Bodleian Library and Christchurch Cathedral were memorable of course, the latter in particular as I was moved at the time of our visit by some talented person practicing on the organ. I found it very emotional. Here I also found in the roll of honour book of the First World War the name of my uncle who was killed at the age of nineteen.

And now we are on our last passage north towards Banbury when we meet Sharon again and have our engines serviced by Tooleys. Janis is also having ‘Roots and Wings dry-docked for bottom blacking so we should be around for some time.


IMG_0799  Moored below Kidlington Green Lock

‘Futurest’ moored below Kidlington Green Lock


Sharon returns home to Australia after a brief stay in Banbury and later Janis and I take our ships up to Warwick and winter moorings.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Wallingford and on to Abingdon

At eight o’clock on Wednesday morning last Sharon, Janis’ sister and very worthy crew member, decided she needed a break so caught a bus at Wallingford at the start of a trip to the Greek Islands and shortly afterwards our little fleet cast off for the passage north towards Abingdon.


IMG_0759  A luxury boat house

This is just the boathouse!


IMG_0760  In close company with 'Roots and Wings'

In close company…..



……with friends


The Red Kite in flight


We had arrived at Wallingford on the previous Sunday afternoon from Beale Park in good sunshine, so to make the most of it, we set off straightaway to reconnoitre the ancient town and castle remains. Unfortunately all that remains of the latter, one of the largest in Medieval England, is two fragments of wall, an extensive meadow that must be wonderful in Springtime festooned with wild flowers and a tall mound that was the original motte in the days of William the Conqueror. It looked an impressive structure from the plans that were shown on various boards in the park.


100_4312  Wallingford Castle Ruins

A fragment of Wall that was Wallingford Castle



A blaze of colour in Wallingford



Dame Agatha Christie’s Gravestone at Cholsey


On the Tuesday, the previous day having been rained off, we three set off to walk the three miles to Cholsey, a nearby small village where in the churchyard there are the remains of Dame Agatha Christie. After viewing the gravestone we enjoyed a drink at the local Red Lion before setting off on our walk back across the fields.

After leaving Wallingford on Wednesday morning, Janis and I breasted our two boats together a couple of hours later at a very quiet rural mooring just above Day’s Lock and with white cattle lowing in the background, set off to explore nearby Dorchester with its ancient Abbey. We were impressed and marvelled that they could trace their history back to early pagan Saxon times, when St Birinus was sent from Rome in the Seventh Century as a missionary. He was the first Bishop of Dorchester and his shrine is in the abbey.


IMG_0766  At the Dorchester Mooring

Our quiet mooring at Day’s Lock


We spent a quiet night at Day’s Lock before setting off, arriving here in Abingdon yesterday afternoon. Today has been quiet with me cleaning ship, doing the laundry and writing this post. Tomorrow we plan to be tourists again.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Beale Park and peacefulness

Yesterday the wide and majestic River Thames continued to bewitch us as, bathed in glorious calm sunshine yet again, we travelled the six and a half miles from Henley on Thames to Beale Park, just north of Pangbourne and the urban mass of Reading.


100_4307  GThe foggy Sun

Early morning fog at Henley


At the latter near the entrance to the Kennet and Avon Waterway we stopped for an hour at the Tesco mooring for a quick shop before pressing on with the rest of the passage.

Here at Beale Park the mooring is very rural with both ends of ‘Futurest’ tied to a convenient tree and, most wonderful of all, it is so very still and quiet. At times the river is very busy with all manner of craft passing by from the unusual ‘Floating Beach Hut’ to the very large, white ocean going cruisers, which create such a large wash as they rush by. It is good to see the occasional narrowboat too and the others just do not know what they are missing.



Garden and Norman Ruins at Greys Court


100_4280  The gardens from the Tower

From the top of the Tower at Greys Court



Field Bindweed


100_4300  Looking down the High Street to the river

Henley towards the church and river


100_4301  The Dusty Springfield Memorial in the church yard

The memorial in the churchyard to an icon of my time


IMG_0724  Sharon at the helm

Sharon at the helm



‘Futurest’ into the lock



The post box on Whitchurch Bridge. For boaters?

At twilight there is a mass honking of Canada Geese as hundreds of them appear overhead from all directions and dropping swiftly down, fly off up river just skimming the surface to some favoured anchorage further north. Momentarily it is noisy but evocatively not out of place as the calm stillness soon returns.

Navigating the river can be expensive with mooring fees up to ten pounds for twenty four hours sometimes. We stopped in Henley for two nights for a total of sixteen pounds, but what a lovely stay we had while we were there. The weather on  both evenings was balmy enough for us to sit outside on our deckchairs, with gin and tonic in hand and watch the bright star constellations appear while discussing the happy goings on of the day.

On the day after the first night there, the two girls and myself walked the three miles across country to nearby Greys Court, a large house dating back to the Tudor period and lived in until quite recently by the Brunner Family. It is now owned by the National Trust and open to the public. In the extensive gardens there are even romantic ruins that date back to Norman times and the house has the only donkey wheel for pumping water from the well in the country. It was in use till quite recent times.

We walked a different way back to the ships at the end of the day but again, as on the way out, it was most pleasantly accomplished along footpaths and bridle ways, festooned with pink and white Field Bindweed and large Blackberry Briars. The latter tended to delay our journey somewhat but we were refreshed by the sweet succulent fruit.

Today we intended to visit another National Trust property, Basildon House, which is across Beale Park, the road and railway line, which run parallel to each other at this point and high up on the deeply wooded hill at the side of the valley. But the weather has changed. We awoke this morning to a heavily overcast sky and the unusual patter of raindrops on the roof. I’ve been spoilt this year and since the undergrowth to the road would be wet and soggy underfoot I have elected to stay aboard to write this posting. The two girls eager to arrange a bus journey for Sharon from Wallingford to Luton Airport; she leaves us temporarily again when we arrive there, have gone for a walk, computer in bag, into Pangbourne for a free Wi-Fi signal somewhere.

I expect them back at any time now.

Party at Loudwater

Conveniently on Friday afternoon last, the 31st of August, our little flotilla arrived at Bourne End, enveloped in beautiful sunshine. The arrival was opportune since my daughter E-J lives at Loudwater, three miles away, and the following day she was holding a party hopefully in the garden if the fine weather prevailed. So we had decided before leaving the mooring at Cliveden that we would make Bourne End our next destination.



Red sky at night at ‘The Bounty’ Pub, Bourne End


IMG_0694  The new Mooring

The new mooring at Bourne End


However moorings at this little place are rather short. Nearly all of them are private and the only other option is the local Marina, who charge £23 per night for a spot, which we wanted to avoid if possible. We learned from the lock keeper at Cookham that there is a pub mooring at ‘The Bounty’ on the off side of the river for patrons only and a further small mooring beyond the village maintained by a local preservation trust.

So on Friday afternoon in beautiful sunshine I moored ‘Futurest’ outside ‘The Bounty’ pub. There was only enough room for one of our ships at the quay so ‘Roots and  Wings’ came alongside us and breasted up safely. The whole manoeuvre had been tricky since the fresh breeze at that time was doing its best without respite to blow us off the quay. I was grateful to a man who quickly came to my assistance on the centreline and our combined pull finally persuaded ‘Futurest’ that we knew what was best for her.

The pub mooring was for twenty four hours only so early on Saturday Janis took her boat down to the other possible mooring at the southern end of town and as there was one free there she called me on the walky-talky and I followed her down to this much more useful mooring on the same side of the river as Loudwater and later Janis and I walked the three miles over the fields to my daughter’s house for the arranged garden party that afternoon.

It was a wonderful gathering of my in-laws and E-J’s husband Steve’s family. Though five members of the former who had previously said they would be there, failed to arrive the atmosphere wasn’t marred and it was good to see all three of my children together once more; something that doesn’t happen too often these days unfortunately.



My son Alex and grand daughter Penny at the party



Penny at fifteen months showing us how she walks


There was plenty of food and drink both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and it was a wonderful show on behalf of both E-J and Steve.

Steve gave us a lift back and the following day he brought his three girls, E-J and my grandson George to visit the ship. Afterwards they invited me back for dinner.

Then late on Sunday night E-J gave me a lift back to the ship and met Sharon for the first time.

All in all it had been a memorable stay at Bourne End.