I'm moored in a stunning spot just below Goring, at Beale Park. The sun is setting now, but was lighting up the autumn colours in the trees fantastically. I do feel sorry for the lockeeper at Cleve - I asked him if he had any thoughts about the Beale Park moorings, and he said bluntly 'I've never moored there - there's nothing there'. Of course that was the perfect answer for me, but he wasn't impressed...
Left Thrupp early Sat in the mist, even at one point putting the headlight on for the benfit of any oncoming boats - which, unsurprisingly there were none. Lift bridge no. was as ever as ever, and the bolt I'd used to tie dowen the chain to hold the bridge open wasn't there, so I ended up putting in a mooring stake to hold it open - it worked, and indeed worked well I pulled the boat to one side to let another single hander get through on it too. Despite this we still manged a queue at Duke's lock. With some regret I didn't get to do down Duke's cut, as I was keen to top up on fuel (35l at a neat if steep £1 a litre), and also oil & stern grease, so went via Jericho & College cruisers instead. Thankfully Oxford resident Lyndsey found me just as I approached the next lift bridge, no no more single handed faffing on cansl for the day.
It was quite a culture change on the Thames, the current being inevitably stronger that two years ago, so much so mooring up just before Osney lock was quite a challenge - the current takes a little getting used too. I ended up getting my temporary license at Sadnford lock, as the Osney & Iffley don't take cards; it would have been a problem if College Cruisers had had the same arttitude, though. Do they only take cash or check or a week's boat hire, too?
Lyndsey had punting to do, so cycled back from Sandford, and I headed down to Abingdon. I realise writing up even a day later I'm a bit sketchy about details.
The Thames is very different to canals - the size, and flow, underline the fact it is largely a natural beast, admittedly tamed and rerouted here and there by man, but still with a spirit of it's own. Canals stand as a tribute to those who built them - untold numbers losing their lives, but the Thames is just - more. Boats - even bloody great wedding cakes of boats with no regard for speed limits and other boats - are insignifcant to the body of water they sit in. Narrow boats look particularly incongruous, somehow. ;-)
I'm retracing my steps from two years ago, and have been tempted to take the same photographs again - like the one above, I'm pretty sure. One I defininately took (and blogged) was under the road bridge on the way out of Wallingford, graffitti saying 'waitrose on thames' - which summed things up neatly, really. This year it's a little worse for wear - it's always a shame when people feel they have to 'tag' over a significant piece of work. I quite like the addendum on the side, I doubt it's connected or not - 'lowest of the low, I'll be never like you'. It's the story behind messages like these I want to know - the ultimate one being why doesn't he call seen on a wall in Dubrovnik in 2001.
This couple were camping as they went, a lovely way to travel, and almost keep pace with me, although I'm constantly being passed by plastic monstrosities leaving a huge wash. On a sunny evening, their trip seemed idyllic, although of course the evenings are cool,l and night falls early.
I've typing this on the front deck of the boat, looking out over the river. It is now dark, I'm peering at the keyboard by the light of the screen, and I'm wrapped in a blanket, but one last picture; if only I believed in a sentient deity and had asked for a sign:
35 miles, 6½ flg and 15 locks
A hundred years or two - Next weekend I shall be celebrating a centenary, and a bicentenary
7 hours ago