The Long Journey Home – Part 13
Sunday 17 June 2018
Awakened to the Sound of Rain
We awoke to the sound of light rain announcing its arrival on the Pigeon Box, above our heads in the bedroom. No, I hadn’t taken up pigeon fancying, not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s a traditional Northern pastime. A Pigeon Box is the name for the raised box ‘skylight’ on the roof of a narrowboat. They are normally hinged and can be brightly painted.
This was a new experience as up until now, the weather had been perfect with no rain at all. As it was Sunday and we only had a short journey this day, we lay hoping it would stop so we could at some point set off. As I got up to make a cup of tea , a boat passed that seemed to be moving a little fast. The next thing we knew, the stern of the boat was across the canal!
The mooring had come loose. I had to edge along the starboard gunnel to get to the centre line, walk halfway back and throw out the line for mu to pull us back in to land. On inspecting the mooring pin, the loop was found to have snapped off! The ring sat on the stern of the boat with the rope. The mooring spike was still behind the metal siding of the canal bank. It may have been that I looped the rope through the ring only and didn’t pass it around the spike itself. I would have to try that in future. It must have been a combination of no flex and loop only (and old mooring spike) that cast us adrift. We were just glad it happened while we were aboard.
The rain had stopped by now so we set about planning the day’s trip: Thrupp and beyond.
The journey to Thrupp saw us saying goodbye to The Rock of Gibraltar, winding our way slowly past liveaboard boaters, on through a lock and on to the River Cherwell; our first river. There was an outfall of water from a large pipe from a cement works, hidden behind greenery that pushed us over to the wrong side as we passed under a railway bridge. It always amazes me how a small flow of water can shift a 19 ton metal hull! My newly found skills didn’t fail me however and we passed unscathed. This time. The Cherwell itself was a millpond by comparison.
Pull Up, Fill Up and Splash Out
At the end of the short river section, we passed through the lock, back onto the Oxford canal. Boat after boat seemed to be coming out of Thrupp but after several stops, groundings and re-attempts at moving forward to let them pass, we got to the Thrupp service area – a motorway service station of the canal. We could fill up with water from the water tap and empty our toilet at the Elsan point, not getting them mixed up. We had to wait; backwards, forwards, turn the engine off, turn the engine on. It was like treading water in a 19 ton swimming costume! Finally we got to pull up, fill up and splash out!
After the basics were completed we passed under a lift bridge, our first electronically-operated by key but only after lots of manoeuvring did we make it through. Once again, for the final time, we went to Annie’s Tearoom for tea, coffee and toasted teacake (after washing our hands). It was as good as ever.
On From Thrupp
The stop at Thrupp had been a lot longer one than anticipated but refuelled, we set off. We were back on the long journey home. The slow drive past boat upon boat in this popular area continued after a short break with Kiddlington.
More moored boats. Travelling at such a slow speed lets you appreciate the environment you are in. You feel an affinity with the places you pass through. It is so unlike driving a car or travelling by train. Kiddlington was our first real urban part of a canal. After all the countryside with: fields, Flag Iris, Lilly pads and flowers, reeds, woodland and Elizabeth Lace, the urban views were a change. However, the canalside, even through built up areas keeps a degree of the aforementioned. You can still pass by much of the flora and fauna of canal life.
Oxford has set aside residential moorings under Agenda 21 and it is here that some of the more eccentric narrowboats can be found. There’s a wealth of character compared to the sterile hire boats that pass up and down the canal at this time of year. The patina of age should be embraced as the Japanese embrace Wabi Sabi.
Time was now passing on and we were looking for a mooring space. At a locked lift bridge we had trouble unlocking it with the key (you get a key which unlocks all the bridges and avoids people casually leaving them up). I was drifting into a moored boat and it didn’t take long for the owner to jump out, help push me away and then run around and help mu open the obstinate bridge. It was a known issue. A little further beyond, 48 hour moorings were to be found. They were mostly full but after a couple of tries, I managed to get MIRRLESS near enough to the overgrown bank (greenery of every kind is rampant at this time of year), get the centre line thrown out and pulled in to halt for the evening.
We had moored at Wolvercote. Here started several Inspector Morse references. The Wolvercote Tongue is one of my favourite Inspector Morse episodes.
Looking out of the galley window, across a bridge and a field The Plough could be seen, beckoning. After the now well-versed mantra of: turn the water pump off, check we’ve got the keys, lock the stern doors outside (as well as inside) and put a makeshift curtain in place in the front window, we walked over bridge 32b to The Plough.
Greene King East Coat IPA (a nice refreshing, modern pint) and Lilley’s Cider for mu. As it was Father’s Day mu treated us to actual food: vegetable curry and vegetable chillie. You would have found me that evening reading The One Tree – The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson.
We went to sleep dreaming of leaving Isis Lock and moving out onto the Thames with all the trepidation that brings…
Boat name of the day: Gallifrey – Doctor Who: the planet where the Doctors come from.
Here ends The Long Journey Home – Part 13
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