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Whispers on water - a photo journal of our life on the 'cut' dedicated to keeping family and friends informed of our whereabouts.
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Here we are below Seabrook Top Lock. We arrived this afternoon to spend a few days being visited by friends and to do a final check of the boat in preparation for the colder months ahead, before picking up the pace and heading northwest to this winter's cruising ground now that Autumn is fast approaching.
31st Aug 2013, 00:12
1. A family Sunday lunch get-together at the 'Anglers Retreat', Marsworth.
Never one for clocking the passing of time, especially living as we do, I've never the less been reminded of the fast receding months by the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower in the night sky and, much closer to home, the ripening of blackberries.
I need to get the blog back on track too as the days are becoming noticeably shorter as we move northwards to seek out quiet moorings to over-winter, and recent weeks have flown by.
Jim and Helen have continued on their way as they have still to find a mooring for 'M' over the winter months, while we have slowed to our usual pace since leaving the Thames. This gives us a chance to meet up with friends old and new who live locally along the route of the Grand Union Canal.
To bring us bang up to date, just this weekend gone, we had a summer family get-together at Ivinghoe, not far from where we're moored. Our son Craig made a sweeping detour on his way home to Kent with his family at the end of a two week caravan holiday in Dorset, and our daughter Emma, with her family stopped off on their way from Norwich to Legoland, conveniently staying overnight in Craig's caravan. All-in-all a great weekend.
30th Aug 2013, 00:24
1. The Swan Uppers arrive at Mapledurham.
2. The skiffs and flags of the Queens and Vintners.
3. The skiffs and flags of the Dyers.
4. The Swan Uppers depart and head upstream to Goring.
5. The Queens Swan Marker (note the feather in his cap).
During our run down the Thames in July we happened to moor at Mapledurham where we were fortunate to observe the pageantry that is 'Swan Upping'. Today this is an opportunity to carry out an annual census of the Mute Swan population, to check upon their health and to ring the cygnets.
The Wardens of the Queens, Dyers and Vintner Swan Uppers arrived in splendid style to break for lunch, dressed in their traditional finery aboard six skiffs led by the Queens Swan Marker. They were kind enough to give us a swans feather as a memento of the occasion, which will be framed and displayed in the cabin.
For more info on Swan Upping go to:
7th Aug 2013, 22:53
Denham Deep Lock, Grand Union Canal. Monday 05Aug13.
1. Jim and Helen aboard their Narrowboat 'M', keeping station astern.
2. Heading out of Abingdon.
3. One of our weekend 'out in the sticks' moorings below Clifton Hampden.
4. A fully laden trip-boat heading upstream.
5. Approaching Wallingford.
6. (l-r) Helen, Jim and Ginny consult the oracle.
We left the River Thames on Wednesday morning's high tide, which took us from Teddington down to Brentford. There we locked up onto the River Brent and the Grand Union Canal.
The month spent on the Thames was a joy, made all the more so by an umbrella of blue sky and the near ever-present cloak of warmth from a sun last felt for its traditional summer brilliance in 2006.
There was also an abundance of water, which made the meandering river journey from Oxford to Lechlade that much easier when negotiating narrow bends that almost turns the river back on itself as we wound our way upstream towards our destination, before turning back for the three week leisurely run down river to the outskirts of London.
The pleasure of sharing and spending time with great friends Jim and Helen throughout a journey that was a first for them, made it all the more worthwhile and memorable for us too.
Memorable for the sights and sounds of red-kites wheeling in thermals above a field of gold as they followed in the wake of a tractor cutting a dusty swathe through a hay meadow. Boats large and small, brilliant white or traditionally painted, plying their trade or, like us, simply cruising about for pleasure. Mighty weirs, taming water upstream, tumbled unfettered, ever downstream, leaving misty rainbows hanging in the air and tranquil pools of expectation below them, enticing anglers to cast a line and test their luck. Memorable for the souvenir feathers given to us by the Swan-Uppers as they passed through Mapledurham in all their pageant finery, continuing to protect and mark swans as they have been doing traditionally for the past 900 years. The majesty of Cliveden House, overlooking the river from on high through heavily wooded slopes reaching down to the waters edge. The Crown Estate of Windsor Castle unfolding along the royal banks of the river. Cruising along the course of the Henley Regatta. Eynsham, Oxford, Rushey, Wallingford, Marlowe, Goring, Abingdon, Sonning, Runnymede and more; all linked by the trade and industry that was once the lifeblood of this great river yet now serve as weekend destinations for mainly private pleasure boats and tourists. And our last port of call, Hampton Court Palace, the seat of so much royal and political intrigue.
A river never disappoints the water-borne traveller inquisitive to learn more about our heritage. A river such as the Thames carries a living time-line that truly helps us to understand history. If rivers have taught me anything over the years, outside of my passion for angling, it's how they remain virtually impervious to change, provide opportunities for adventure, add a wilderness element to this island of ours and cleanse the mind as well as the body. Long may that continue.
5th Aug 2013, 18:41
1. Oh to be able to do just that!
2. All steamed up.
3. Thames Trail camping.
4. Ha'penny Bridge.
Lechlade and seven years have passed, good friends continue to prosper, livelihoods thrive, a favourite walk remains so, a pub much the same, the shining jewel-in-the-crown that is Horseshoe lake, village life changing face, the river listless, plagued by silt and red-signal crayfish, gliding by, shown little love or respect, as if a hindrance, trees and reeds encroach, lock-keepers poised but do little, cattle drool over boats, summer bears down, sun-burnt lips, clever-dick's tumble haphazardly from ha'penny bridge, sounds of flesh painfully slapping water, ha-ha, 'no swimming' notices ignored, quaint over-priced antique 'junk' shops, the all-year Christmas shop, a superb takeaway jal-frezi, people we knew getting on with their lives, no time to remember; once again it's time to move on.
11th Jul 2013, 18:08
We arrived here yesterday afternoon.
3rd Jul 2013, 23:28
Eynsham, River Thames. Sunday 30June13.
1. Leaving the Oxford Canal behind by passing under Duke's Bridge to enter Dukes Cut Lock.
2. Locking up beneath the A40.
3. Entering Duke's Cut.
4. Jim and Helen following in our wake as we head up Duke's Cut to join the River Thames.
5. A narrowboat stranded by previous high river levels.
We left Thrupp yesterday morning and locked down the final few miles to the River Thames above Oxford, where we locked up to join the river at Dukes Cut and, until our next visit, left the intimate beauty of the Oxford Canal behind.
Above Oxford, the Thames, or Isis as it is known above King's Lock, just oozes that quintessential 'Turner' quality the English countryside is renowned for.
Shortly after tying up for a couple of nights below Eynsham Lock we were seemingly greeted by the Red Arrows who over-flew our location again this morning as they made their approach into nearby RAF Brize Norton to presumably refuel as they continue their display season.
It's been a while since we left the Thames in 2006 to embrace this new way of life we had chosen for ourselves, and I can't believe how good it feels to be back. It's as though we've come home.
The number of boats that refuse to leave the perceived safety and security of the canal network to venture along this, our most famous of rivers, especially when she is behaving herself, is puzzling. However, it is understandable, if a little mischievous, when narrowboats end up being tossed amongst the bank-side trees when she's misbehaving.
Jim and Helen, kept 'M' in our wake as we joined the river and headed upstream yesterday, as pleased to be on the river as much as we are, especially as it's their first time on the Thames, and the perfect Summer weather just made our arrival complete.
Tomorrow we continue upstream to begin a month of renewing our acquaintance with the river and pay £162 for the privilege when we pass through Eynsham Lock.
1st Jul 2013, 00:20
Upper Heyford. Wednesday 26Jun13.
1. 'Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross'
2. 'Froggy went a courtin'?
3. A footbridge over the river Cherwell commemorated to Dick Smith.
4. Dick Smith remembered.
Passing through Banbury we stopped over for two nights and then moved out to moorings south of the town more akin to our preference for being out in the 'sticks'.
While in Banbury I called Jim Huggett, a colleague from my RAF days, who I hadn't seen for thirty-one years. We spent an hour or two chatting about old times and what we'd been up to since, during which time Jim accompanied us along the stretch of town moorings and down a lock to moor up not far from a supermarket. Jim then left us as we continued out of town to moor up for a couple of days to await Helen's return after her four-day trip home by train from Banbury. Great to see you Jim; until next time!
After a night-stop at Belchers Lift bridge we continued south, passing through Aynho and some really classically pretty countryside, arriving at Upper Heyford mid-afternoon yesterday to spend two nights and meet up with friends Neil and Jude who are driving over from their home at Wilstone, just an hours drive away.
27th Jun 2013, 10:03