Sunday, 24 July 2016

Back to the ditches, hurray!

Friday 15th July;  Newbridge to Thrupp

We took our time over breakfast, watching the swallow broods on the bushes over the river.  They took off to practise catching insects and drinking on the wing before returning to the bushes and begging food from the parents.  We left at about 9.30, passing the Maybush where we had our memorable meal last night.  We ate outside looking up-river, as it was hot and stuffy inside.  Wonderful.  There was a fire-pit thing near our table, like a giant wok on legs inside a guard, burning large logs, which was pleasant as it got cooler.

1 maybush at newbridge

The road crossing the bridge is narrow and on the upstream side there are V-shaped pedestrian refuges like the ones on Essex bridge near Shugborough, but larger.

We were on the look-out for cattle at Northmoor which is where the Maybush gets its beef from.  And there they were, Devon Ruby Reds like the ones we see at home.  They are entirely grass-fed on the meadows by the Thames.  I think if you are going to eat meat you should make an effort to buy from local businesses that rear their animals with similar care.  We are fortunate that we have the opportunity and can afford to.  This link explains how their system is good for the beasts, good for us and sustainable.

4 lovely steak beef at newbridge

There are some very sharp and narrow bends along the river with a lot of reeds and overhanging trees, and we met a boat today just as we came round one of them.  It would have been fine except for the group of five or six canoes all over the place.  We ended up with a fair bit of willow decorating the top of the boat, but neither boat made contact with the other nor, more importantly, the canoes.  The canoeists had no idea about the dangers of getting in the way of 16 tons of steel coming downstream and were dithering about across the channel, and I had to go to the bow to ask them to move over to one side so we could pass safely.

5 DOE canoe expedition

At the next lock we had to wait for a boat coming up, so the canoeists caught us up and joined us in the lock.  Fortunately a lockie was on duty and could ensure they behaved safely.  They were doing their expedition for the silver Duke of Edinburgh award, and were camping overnight.  They didn’t have much idea about boating though; as we left the lock they were tying up all along the lock landing and going off for a picnic or a wee or something.  I suggested they should move some of the canoes to give boats coming upstream room to moor for the lock and they looked utterly baffled.  Luckily the lockie would have sorted them out pdq.

As we neared the end of our time on the river I tried a bit of wildlife photography; a cormorant on the lower branch and a crow on the upper.

9 cormorant and crow

And a little egret too.  These used to be pretty unusual in this country but are now often seen.

10 egret

Soon we were at Duke’s Cut and left the Thames.  The hundred yards below the lock taking us back onto the canal was very overgrown and lined with continuous moorers on both sides. 

12 bit thin

As I got off the boat I could see someone was just turning the lock, and as there was so little room for them to pass us I nipped up to explain and asked if he would mind letting us up first.  He did mind but understood and agreed.  The arrangement to hold the paddle open is unusual and it took me a while to work out how to do it.  The business end of my windlass is vertical, underneath the white arrows, and its handle is sticking out towards the camera.  The horizontal bar attached at the three o’clock position is hooked over the windlass handle to stop the paddle dropping.

13 unusual pawl-type mechanism

Anyway, we were soon up and thanked the waiting boat politely.  They barely acknowledged us and certainly hadn’t gone back and opened the bottom gate of the next lock.  Oh well.  While I took Chuffed up the lock, Dave took the mallet and went back over the junction to re-moor a boat which was drifting across the canal and had lost 2 of its 3 pins.  Entirely unattended, it was there when we went into Oxford six days ago.  The owner had tied the ropes securely enough to the pins – perhaps s/he anticipated they would be pulled out and trusted that other boaters would replace them.

14 dave re-mooring empty boat

We stopped at the water point in thick drizzle, had a quick lunch while the tank filled, and were approaching Thrupp by 3.30.  There was one space outside the Jolly Boatman’s extractor fan, the air already heavy with the stink of chip fat – no thanks – then one just big enough between the Boat and the lift bridge.  The mooring warden was just passing and said there were no spaces at all the other side of the bridge so we gratefully slotted in.  The posts along the road have been yarn-bombed with the flags of various countries…..

17 yarn bomb uk  21 yarn bomb wales  22 yarn bomb scotland

and this one ….. I wonder whether it was placed there before or after the referendum?

23 yarn bomb EU

The weather was fine again, so I got the brush out to clear the roof of the bits of willow collected when we met the canoes, then we took Meg and went for a lovely drink in the Boat.

16 the lovel boat pub thrupp

13 miles, 7 locks, 1 lift bridge