We’ve Reached Lechlade. But it wasn’t easy!

   
  We decided to move on Sunday 8th Sept from our mooring at Beale Park as Tony had found an even nicer spot further up on the boundary of the Park. There was also a charity walk taking place and the route would’ve been right alongside the boat on the fairly narrow towpath and there was supposed to be about 1000 entrants. Not that we didn’t want to cheer them on, but, for Sal’s sake, decided it might be best if we moved. We only cruised for about 45 minutes! The field on this mooring was enclosed by a fence and gates so we were brave and let Sal off the lead – still don’t like doing it as she goes too far away, but it’s lovely to see her have a bit of freedom. The recall has all but disappeared again – with or without bread – so we would only let her off if we were convinced she couldn’t disappear! I’m sure she could be a sniffer dog – she is totally “deaf” when she’s on the scent of something – it is all consuming! The force of the rabbit or squirrel is strong! (said in a Yoda voice!!)

We left Beale Park on Monday 9th September and made our way to Wallingford. We were incredibly lucky to get a mooring there – a boat was pulling out just as we arrived. They are paid moorings and a nice lady comes round every morning to collect the fee. The walls of the bank were very high, though, really designed for the big cruisers which dominate the river. I had to, rather inelegantly, climb up and crawl onto the bank! Tony had to lift Sal up too, although within a couple of goes of getting on and off, she was confidently jumping on again – about 4 foot down from the side into the boat – this girl never ceases to amaze us!!!

A hire boat arrived quite late and there were no available moorings so we offered for them to come alongside. They were very grateful and said that they had a problem with the boat and that they needed to phone the hire company. Tony asked if they’d checked the weed hatch – they hadn’t even been told they had one! So, Tony rolled up his sleeves and down the weed hatch he went – a bit of rope and an article of unidentified clothing was the culprit! Several minutes later and lots of consternation by the hirers, they were free – and most grateful! They were Swedish and were having two weeks holiday on the K & A and Thames and didn’t want their valuable time wasted. Very nice people!

We had a vet’s appointment in Wallingford for Sal on Tuesday 10th to have her annual boosters (although the vet said she was missing one so we need to go to another vet in early October so she can have that one!) Unfortunately, we got to the bus stop and found the bus had alternating routes and the one we were going to catch didn’t go where we needed it to, so we ended up having a very brisk route march to get to the vet’s in time! Fortunately, I managed to find footpaths and alleyways, using my brilliant app, so we were able to avoid walking on the main roads. We had a more leisurely walk back and Sal was fine, no after effects of her jab. Tony made a new friend in Wallingford – he noticed an old chap just sitting beside the river so went to chat to him. John does this most days, apparently, hoping to meet someone to pass the time of day with, having lost his wife recently. Tony made him a cuppa and had a good long chat with him, he was a lovely old chap with a good life story to tell!

We thought Wallingford was a lovely town but time to move on, so, on Wednesday, after another shopping expedition, we set off and cruised for a couple of hours to Dorchester (yes, really!), mooring on farm land next to the river when we stopped. The field was occupied by young cows – I don’t mind them when they are that small! We weren’t sure if we would have to pay but no one asked for any money! I let Sal off the lead again, thinking we were in an enclosed field, forgetting an open gate. Off she went after rabbits! I had the tracker switched on so could see where she was and thought it had fallen off her collar because she didn’t appear to be moving – I caught up with her and she was fascinated by a rabbit warren, just sticking her nose down all the rabbit holes and having a good sniff and chasing them if any appeared! A close call on my part!

We moved to Abingdon on the 12th September. We didn’t really intend going as far as that but didn’t see any moorings so had no choice! The moorings are good, though, and are all bordering parks in the town. Better still, you can stay for 3 days free of charge! We stayed for the three nights, a lovely town with some great walking routes along and around the river. We noticed, on our first afternoon walk round, that there was a small cinema and they were showing Downton Abbey so I booked myself a ticket for Saturday afternoon. Tony elected not to come. I was the only person on the whole of the balcony (small cinema with only one row of seats on the balcony) so I was able to stretch out and relax – had a lovely time and I thoroughly enjoyed the film!

We moved on Sunday 15th and stopped at Sandford Lock – it was quite tricky to get onto the mooring, had to reverse in and, even if I say so myself, I made a good job of it. We had a call from Ali & Rob wondering when we were free for another visit – after some discussion, they offered to come up for the day on Monday, stay over and take Tony back to New Milton to collect the car. What a lovely surprise! They arrived on Monday in time for coffee and to drop off their bags from the car, they then drove into Oxford to park with the intention of walking back to meet us along the river. Ended up parking in the marina where we left the boat whilst we went to Jim’s 30th birthday short break in Paignton, as the Park and Ride was full, so they had a three mile yomp to get back to us! We stopped for some lunch then cruised into Oxford and moored at The Punter near Osney Lock – didn’t look very salubrious but the reviews were good – and they were right – the food was very good! Unfortunately, on the way, somehow the bottle of gin Ali & Rob had brought found its way to the edge of the worktop whilst we were going along and smashed on the floor – the boat had a delightful aroma of gin for several hours and we fortunately managed to replace it on mooring, thanks to a nearby Waitrose!

We moved on Tuesday 17th into the marina – it was a little tricky to get in, but a good safe place to leave the boat. It all worked out well and it was lovely to see Ali & Rob, and very kind of them to help us out! Tony duly arrived back in Oxford with the car – Sal and I had a lovely long walk round the field near the marina whilst he was gone.

It was a fair walk from the marina car park to the boat so we had a bit of a struggle with all our bags for our trip away. Still, we were packed up and on our way by 10.30. We arrived in Devon and begun our lovely short break – Sal was a bit of an arse with Dave & Mel’s Ben & Bailey, but other than that, it was great!

We arrived back at the marina on Sunday evening (22nd), and on Monday morning we checked our itinerary for the coming few days. We quickly realised that there was going to be limited opportunities to do any shopping anywhere along the Thames once we’d left Oxford, so we set off whilst we had the benefit of the car and did a good stock up. We decided to stay for one more night in the marina, allowing Tony to drive the car back down to Jim’s, which he duly did and caught the train back, arriving back at about 7pm. Tuesday dawned very rainy and we got wet several times – walking Sal, filling with water (that was a bit of a trial, we had to drape the hose over the top of the adjoining boats so it would reach) and then setting off. We always said that we wouldn’t travel in the rain, but at £36 a night for the marina mooring had we stayed put, we broke our own rule!! We had planned on stopping near Eynsham Lock but the lockkeeper told us that the moorings near Pinkhill Lock were much nicer so we motored on. We ran into trouble, though, as our centre line fell off the roof and got wrapped round our prop, causing our engine to stall!!! We drifted into the side and tied up and Tony managed to untangle it, fortunately without having to cut the rope! Whilst we were tied up, a lady in a cruiser asked us if we could give her a tow – she was in real trouble, having had a bad service resulting in total engine failure and she needed to get to Lechlade in order to have a new engine fitted. We agreed to have a crack at it, pointing out that we were newbies and had never towed anyone before!! We got her hitched up alongside and went the short distance through the next lock (unhitching and going through separately) and onto a mooring for the night.

Wednesday was interesting to say the least! We set off with her alongside again, having to untie to go through the locks each time. There was a bridge, though, with narrow arches which meant we had to tow her through – very slowly – with her tied behind on two short ropes. That went well, so we decided to continue on like that. The thing was, the river got quite narrow and very bendy and we had several close encounters with the trees and bushes either side – we were just too long to get round some of the bends! It was very tricky to steer with a boat behind pulling you in the wrong direction and at one point we were buried in a tree at the front and she was buried in a tree at the back – we didn’t know which way to go to get out of it! We managed, though, and we were all very tired and immensely grateful to be moored safely that night, with all people, dogs and boats intact, maybe the odd scratch or two notwithstanding!

We left Vanessa at the wonderfully named Tadpole Bridge on Thursday 26th September – we’d set off with her alongside again as, although it made us very wide, it meant that her boat wasn’t apt to go to the side and do its own thing and end up in the trees, pulling us in with it, as it had tended to do when towing her behind us. However, on the very bendy sections where we had to take a wide line because she was beside us (and some of the bends were very tight), also, with the flow of the river against us – it still meant that we were losing control and ending up in the trees and bushes on the side. It took us three hours to go only two miles! I was steering whilst Tony and Vanessa were poling off the sides – and we visited the sides a bit too often! We all decided that, as the river was likely to get even more winding,  we’d be better to leave her in a safe place where she could wait to carry on. It was a relief, I must admit! I would’ve hated to have damaged her boat (or ours, come to that!). After buying us a drink, Vanessa waved us off and we continued our journey at a somewhat faster pace and stopped just after Grafton Lock, mooring at the side of a field. It was quite windy by that time so we were pleased to stop.

We set off a bit later yesterday (Friday 27th) having waited for a rain shower to pass. However, as the day progressed, it unfortunately got a lot windier which was not predicted – the weather apps are all crap, really! We had another very winding section to complete and this time we had no boat tied to our side, but had to contend with the strong wind instead! Again, we found ourselves buried in the shrubbery at the sides! The flow of the water and the strength of the wind meant we were fighting a losing battle!! There was one point when we were literally pinned to the bank – I was convinced that we would just have to stay there until the wind dropped and hover Sal’s rear end over the back for wees and poohs!!! However, Tony found his Popeye strength from somewhere and managed to pole us away from the side enough for me to give the engine a good few revs to get us off – phew!! We had one or two more similar hairy incidents, one of which was actually mooring when we got to Lechlade – the wind was fully side on to us so although we steered in to the side and jumped off, either one of us wasn’t strong enough to hold her whilst the other hammered in mooring pins – it took both of us just to hold her! We lost control once and she went right over the other side of the river – in the bloody trees again!! We had another go and this time a young girl was walking her dog and saw us struggling and offered to help – I honestly don’t think we would have done it without her! So, happily, we managed to securely tie up, put the rain cover up, walk the dog and with fish and chips inside us and both with a very large glass of wine we were settled!! 

Today, (28th) we had a stroll round Lechlade. Walking past the butcher’s, I glanced in and said to Tony, “bloody hell, that bloke looks like Jason Donovan!” Of course, we desperately needed something a butcher might sell so I went in. It was indeed Jason Donovan (and he’s got sausages for his tea!) 😂