Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Doddery dog and a three-headed swan.

Meg went in for her surgery this morning. I collected her at 11:00, still very woozy from the anaesthetic but mobile. We did have to have a couple of lie-downs on the 10 minute walk back to the boat.

Meg feeling sorry for herself. But it’s a snazzy bandage!SAM_1916 The operation was needed, the vet recovered two more grass seeds deeply embedded in the foot, and cleared out several from her other paws that hadn’t pierced the skin but could have.

After a grey start the day had brightened a bit, so I took the decision to move along a bit, now we were fully crewed again.

Here’s that three-headed swan….SAM_1919

We timed our departure well, Whitchurch Lock was just around the corner and as we approached, disgorged it’s contents downstream.

Salters Bros. MV Reading, the 09:45 from Wallingford to Reading.SAM_1921 Salters Reading out of Whitchurch Lock
During the summer the company runs regular, scheduled cruises up and down the river. The Wallingford/Reading route runs Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Other routes are available….
They don’t hang about, either. This boat will cover the 15 miles and 4 locks in 3¼ hours.

Going under Whitchurch Bridge with the lock ahead.SAM_1922 Whitchurch Br and Lock

It started to rain not long after we left the lock, and it looked to be set in for the day, so we pulled onto a Seyella-sized slot at Beale Park.

Stopping early also allowed Meg to get her head down. When we’re cruising she’s up and about all the time, wanting to know what’s going on. So she’s been asleep most of the afternoon and is looking a lot brighter. She’s had a bite to eat and we’ll be going out shortly for a ten minute stroll.

Locks 1, miles 1¾

Monday, July 30, 2012

Breaking up.

After a really enjoyable weekend at Reading our little party broke up this morning. Last night Chas and Ann hosted our final get together, nibbles and drinks aboard Moore2Life.

The weather had turned cooler else we’d have been out on the bank like the previous two nights. During the day we suffered a couple of really heavy showers, and there was a cool breeze developing.

Shower yesterday PMSAM_1894

We were supposed to have odd showers today, but, although it’s been fresher, it has stayed dry.

Del and Al got away soon after 09:00…SAM_1895
…they are heading for the Kennet and Avon.

Chas and Ann were next…SAM_1899 Chas and Ann Leaving
…They are continuing downstream, probably taking a trip up the River Wey.

We left shortly after, heading back upstream and leaving George and Carol behind.

Rock’n’Roll still tied up.SAM_1900 RnR staying
They intend to follow M2L, catching up with them later today.

Our original plan was to head back to Oxford, taking maybe three steady days for the trip. Once back on the canals we’ll be heading north, aiming to be in Ripon in North Yorkshire by the second week in September. A bit of a journey; 337 miles and 144 locks. If everything goes according to plan we’ll be picking up Mags’ son Neil and his wife Val in York on the way. Then on the 16th we’ll head up to South Shields by car for the Great North Run, leaving Seyella in the marina at Ripon.

My sponsorship webpage is here, by the way….

The plan went a bit awry straight away. After her paw infection caused by a grass seed, Meg has been on a course of antibiotics from the vet at Pangbourne. The course finished last night, but the abscess, after responding well for the first few days, is still there. So we decided to make a return visit to see what the vet thinks.

Passing Appletree Eyot and Poplar IslandSAM_1902 Past Appletree Eyot and Poplar Island

Cormorant drying his wingsSAM_1904 Cormorant
As divers they need to dry out after a fishing trip. They are very successful fishers which has led to conflict with anglers. There are calls for a cormorant cull…

This boat’s a long way from home.SAM_1906 Humber keel
She’s a Humber keel, and would have spent her working life carrying cargo around Hull and the Humber estuary. The design is believed to be derived from Viking longships, the word keel a modern version of the Anglo-Saxon coel, a single-masted square-rigged sailing vessel.
This one, Hope, was built in 1908 to trade on the Sheffield canals.
We had only one lock today, at Mapledurham. There were two boats waiting as we approached, and we were waved in behind them. Up the lock and we topped up the water tank, emptied a loo tank and got rid of the rubbish. There seemed to be an awful lot of wine and beer bottles to go in the recycling….

Above Mapledurham LockSAM_1908 Mapledurham Lock

Mapledurham Mill just visible through the treesSAM_1909 Mapledurham Mill

Two more miles and we arrived at Pangbourne, with all the possible mooring spaces taken. You’d have thought that at midday there would be some space on 24 hour moorings, wouldn’t you? After all, they can’t all have arrived this morning….

Having cruised to the end of the moorings and turned around to look again for space for maybe just one end of the boat, the chap on NB Fishpool gave us a shout, they were leaving in 10 minutes. So we hung about in the stream till he vacated his pitch, then dived in before someone else snatched it.

Waiting for a space, NB Fishpool just pulling awaySAM_1913 Pangbourne

I did a bit of shopping this afternoon (there’s a good DIY shop in Pangbourne), then Meg and I went up to the evening clinic at Valley Vets. The vet recommended surgery to remove the lump Meg still has between her toes. There may still be something in there, so it’s a precautionary measure. When I explained our situation he obligingly booked her in for first thing in the morning, so I should be able to collect her again before lunchtime. If she’s fit to travel we’ll go a short way in the afternoon.

Locks 1, miles 5

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A gossip of bloggers….

Since we’ve been here on the edge of Reading we’ve been joined by Chas and Ann (Moore2Life) and Del and Al (Derwent6). 
It was a fine evening so we had a good get together, a few drinks and a barbeque.

The gang - Del, Al, George, Carol, me, Ann, Chas and Mags.SAM_1871
We did manage to get through most of this….SAM_1876
The Rockers were so inspired by Del’s 60s music selection that they gave us an impromptu performance!

We had a great time then all retired to our own boats to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony. What a fantastic start to what promises to be a superb event. I just hope that our athletes do as well as Danny Boyle and his team.

Locks 0, miles 0

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reading, as far as we go.

Instead of the one day as planned, it’s taken us two to get to Reading. We had a stop in Pangbourne to take Meg to the vet, she’d got an infection in her right fore-paw. She’d been licking at it so I trimmed the fur back and removed a grass seed that had got embedded in the flesh between her toes. There was some swelling there too, and bathing with salt water and applications of antiseptic cream didn’t seem to be doing the trick. A job for the professionals.
The vet was very good with her, Meg wasn’t impressed with the good squeeze she gave to let out some of the fluid, but she also got another grass seed out that I’d missed.
Just 36 hours into a 5 day course of antibiotics and she’s so much better, the swelling is going down and it’s not so angry looking. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it probably won’t be the last.
The vet said it’s very common this time of year, and regular checks of paws, ears and eyes are a good idea. She also said trimming the hair around the toes on woolly dogs helps prevent seeds getting lodged and makes it easier to see them if they do. Good advice, I reckon.
Sue and Vic’s Meg has had the same problem, but in her case it developed into something more serious. But with professional treatment she’s mending, too.

Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. We left Beale Park yesterday morning, heading down the wide reach towards Pangbourne and Whitchurch Lock.

Looking back at Pangbourne College Rowing Club as we approach Whitchurch LockSAM_1829 Pangbourne
Strangely, I didn’t take any pictures of the lock, but, lets face it, we’ve seen a few recently, haven’t we.

We moored on Pangbourne Meadow, and I took Meg up to see the doggy-doctor. George and Carol had arrived by the time we got back and it was getting hot again, so we made the decision to stay put.

When we get back on the canals we’ll miss the varied wildlife; a trio of Pochards came visiting, hoping for a crust.

Female PochardSAM_1837 Pochard
These small diving ducks are very attractive and make a pleasant change from the ever present mallard.

George and I took the pooches for a walk to Whitchurch on the north side of the river. The bridge connecting Whitchurch and Pangbourne was built in 1902 and is showing it’s age. Major reconstruction work is planned for the near future.

The church of St Mary-the-Virgin is a lot older than the bridge, being founded in the 9th century by the Saxons.
SAM_1832 St Mary's Whitchurch
Since then it has been “developed by the Normans, refurbished in 1470 during the reign of Edward IV, rebuilt by the Victorians in 1857, and refurbished again in 1901. Originally a Catholic church, it switched allegiance from the Pope to Henry VIII during the Reformation (whether willingly or not, we don't know; certainly the priest and his parishioners didn't have any choice in the matter).
Quote from http://www.langtree.org/whitchurch_onth_history.htm
SAM_1834 St Mary's Whitchurch

The mill has been converted for residential use, but the waterwheels remain as a feature.
SAM_1830 Whitchurch Mill

The working pair NBs Archimedes and Ara came by in the evening, so we filled up with diesel at a good price of 88p. We’d intended to fill in Reading anyway, so that saved a job.

It was a very muggy, humid night so we slept with the back and side hatches  open. The gentle through draught made it bearable and we got a better nights sleep as a result. Meg is struggling a bit, I even tried to get hold of a dog groomer in Pangbourne to see if  could get her clipped but had no success. It this weather persists I’ll find somewhere. She should grow back by winter.

We were on the move again by 09:30 this morning, with about 2 miles to cruise to Mapledurham Lock.

Leaving Pangbourne MeadowSAM_1839 Leaving Pangbourne

We filled with water and emptied loos and rubbish before dropping down the lock.

On the water pointSAM_1849 Mapledurham Lock

Half a dozen boats in the lock.SAM_1850 Mapledurham Lock

The large cruiser behind us was in a hurry to get past the slow narrowboats…

Look behind, George!SAM_1855 Behind You...
Not a nod, wave or a hint of acknowledgement as we hugged the right bank to give him room. I guess we were beneath his notice… Ignorant sod.

The other cruisers in the lock all went past, and without fail gave us a wave and a smile.

There are some fine properties on the north bank as the river heads towards Reading.SAM_1860
SAM_1859And some are “work in progress”SAM_1857 Fine houses

Caversham Bridge is the first crossing since Pangbourne. A modern concrete span, it was opened in 1926 by Edward, Prince of Wales.

Caversham BridgeSAM_1862 Caversham Br
SAM_1863 Caversham Br

Reading Bridge, just downstream, is also recent, opening three years earlier.

Under Reading Bridge, the lock cut to Caversham Lock is just beyondSAM_1867 Reading Br
We managed to find a space each near Tesco’s to do a stock up of the cupboards, then turned around and retraced our route, through the lock, under the bridges and moored on the edge of town near Coombe Bank.

We’ll be staying here tomorrow, we’re expecting Chas and Ann (Moore2Life) and Del and Al (Derwent 6) to arrive at some point. Party time!

This is the furthest we’ll be going down the Thames; after the gathering we’ll be heading back to Oxford and the canal system, then points north, aiming to be in Ripon in September. The Rockers will be staying on the river, probably including a trip on the River Wey while they’re down here.

Locks 4, miles 10½ (2 days)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hot and then some!

This is our thermometer this afternoon….SAM_1827 HOT
The top reading is inside the boat, the middle is a foot above the roof and the bottom is the time. Phew!

There’s been a bit of traffic up and down the river, but we’ve not joined them. Del and Al on NB Derwent 6 left this morning, so we moved back 100 yards to snatch their mooring. It has a better view than tucked behind an island like we were.
Derwent 6SAM_1812 derwent 6
George and Carol had visitors today so we’ve not seen much of them, they took son Mark and family down to Pangbourne and back.

We had visitors too, a pair of Egyptian Geese turned up for breakfast, with a gosling in tow.
SAM_1816 Egyptian Goose

The youngster is the classic ugly duckling gosling, but I’m sure he’ll turn out as handsome as Dad (or Mum…)SAM_1824 Egyptian Goose

SAM_1815 Egyptian Goose

I gave Meg a good brushing then we had a shower (she can’t manage on her own) so she’s all fluffy and sweet smelling for a little while. I also left her a bit damp so she kept cool this afternoon as she evaporated off….
She’s got a sore paw; a grass seed had got embedded in her fur between the toes and had scraped the skin raw before I realised. It's caused a bit of an infection. There’s a vet in Pangbourne, so I’m going to try for an appointment as we go through tomorrow. It doesn’t seem to be bothering her too much, she’s still ready to chase a ball any time but it needs sorting.

Locks 0, miles 0

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shillingford and Beale Park

No apologies for not posting last night. I had a choice; sit inside tapping away or sit out in the sunshine with a few beers and a barbeque. No contest, really.

Yesterday we were off at not long after 09:00, trying to get some miles in before it got busy. George and Carol had already passed by the time we got going, we were a little later because I got lost on my morning run and was out for nearly 2½ hours!

Just down from our overnight we swung left onto Culham Cut, leaving the natural course for just under a mile to bypass the shallows at Sutton Pools. Culham Lock is at the end of the cut, and the river course can be followed with care back to Sutton Courtenay by turning right just above.

Culham Cut, quite a bit narrower than the natural courseSAM_1716 Culham Cut

Below Culham Lock there’s a 2 mile river section before another cut, this time a little shorter and heading for Clifton Lock. We caught up with Rock’n’Roll here, waiting for the lock.

Following R‘n’R out of Clifton LockSAM_1722 Clifton Lock

The next crossing is at the village of Clifton Hampden, where the late 19thC bridge is designed to look older.

Clifton Hampden Bridge, Norman in stlye
SAM_1728 Clifton Hampden Br

The ornate bell tower of the church of St Michael and All Angels rises above the bridge. Dating from the late 12thC, the church has had additions in the 13thC and 14thC.

This hire boat’s a long way from home!SAM_1727 Long way from home

Big aaaarr…..SAM_1725 Piggy-back

Burcot is the next village, sitting on the north bank as the river curves around to Day’s Lock. There are some fine houses with gardens running down to the water.

BurcotSAM_1735 Burcot

This one’s for sale. You know what they say, if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it!SAM_1739 Burcot

The flat countryside is starting to give way to rising ground as Day’s Lock is reached. Whittenham Stumps is the highest lump on the Sinodun Hills, with it’s distinctive crown of trees.

Day’s Lock with the Stumps on the left.SAM_1746 Days Lock

This was the last lock today, less than 2 miles on we pulled over just past the sharp bends at Shillingford.

Shillingford.SAM_1753 Shillingford

We moored just around the right hand bend here. There’s a red marker buoy way out across the left side of the channel, which you should keep to the left of going downstream. Most boats can get away with cutting the corner a bit, but not a large Dutch barge.

This chap was stuck for the best part of 1½ hours, with a couple of boats trying to drag him off. Carol has some good pics of the operation here.

Hard agroundSAM_1756 Dutch Barge stuck

We had a very pleasant evening sat out watching the world go by.

Red Kite keeping an eye on things…SAM_1762 Red Kite

…and a pair of GrebesSAM_1767 Grebe

Today was already getting warm when we got away at around 10:00. I’d just pulled my pins and turned around to face downstream when I spotted a hire cruiser come round the corner, on the wrong side of the buoy. Of course, he ran onto the sandbank. I hung on to see if he could extricate himself, but with no movement obvious I came up and took a line, snatching him off. My good deed for the day.

Drama over we set off, under Shillingford Bridge.

Shillingford BridgeSAM_1773 Shillingford Bridge

This well proportioned stone bridge was built in 1827, replacing an earlier crossing with a timber deck. This earlier bridge had lasted for 60 years, but was described in early 1827 as “ruinous" and "in part taken down". Before the 18th C bridge the crossing was made by ferry.

There’s nothing more picturesque than the Thames locks, and Benson, our first today, is no exception.

Looking back at Benson Lock and weirSAM_1777 Benson Lock
Spectacular on a sunny day…

We needed to do a bit of shopping, so pulled in just below Wallingford Bridge to pop up into the town. Wallingford deserves more than just a “pop into”, and we’ll do it justice with an overnight stop on the way back. But for today we were off again at 1 o’clock.

The locals were enjoying the sunny day….. but I‘m not sure it was that warm!

Cooling offSAM_1779 Wallingford

The river is running north to south here, heading for the break between the Chilterns to the east and the Berkshire Downs to the east. But there’s still a few miles of water meadows to enjoy.

Moulsford Railway BridgeSAM_1790 Moulsford Railway Br
SAM_1787 Moulsford Railway BrThis bridge was designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1839, to carry the Great Western Railway. Inside 50 years the success of the railway required doubling the width, so, in 1892, a second bridge was constructed on the upstream side. Girders and brick arches connect the two.

The top picture shows Brunel’s original span.

Heading towards Cleeve Lock, with extensive water meadows on the west and the hills starting to rise to the east.SAM_1794 Towards Goring

We topped up water tanks above Cleeve, then dropped down onto the short ½ mile reach to Goring Lock.

Leaving Cleeve LockSAM_1799 Cleeve Lock
The hills are starting to make their presence known as we approach GoringSAM_1800 Goring Gap

The boat coming out of the lock is the hotel boat Louisa. She looks very smart. A relaxing way to enjoy the river.

Hotel boat LouisaSAM_1802 Hotel Boat Louisa

We had three narrowboats and a wide cruiser (the one in the picture above Louisa apparently heading towards the weir) in the lock, and lost the narrowboat on the 24 hour moorings below.

Goring LockSAM_1804 Goring Lock
SAM_1806  Goring Lock

Wooded slopes crowd in on both sides as the river cuts through the Gap, wonderful scenery.

Goring GapSAM_1808 Goring Gap

Whitchurch HillSAM_1810 Whitchurch Hill

We moored a little further on, at Beale Park. We’re tucked in behind one of the small islands.

I love this boat’s name…..SAM_1811 Good Name
I’ve heard the definition of a boat is “a hole in the water you throw money into….”

Locks 6, miles 20½ (two days)