an unexpected journey….

Bit of a long post, and maybe not the most interesting. But hopefully it gives some insight to an Epic Journey on the Thames!

Last week my Son and I moved the ‘new’ boat up to Oxford. A simple task, which should have taken 2 or 3 days. Or so we thought. Under normal circumstances we would have done the trip over a couple of weekends but there is a problem this month. We had to get the boat through Iffley Lock before 1st November due to a winter closure. And guess what? to add to the problem it had been raining again and river levels were rising… We could have paid someone to move the boat by road but that would be an expense I didn’t really want and besides, that’s no fun at all is it?

We had planned to leave on Saturday Morning, heading up the Thames from Chertsey to Oxford but wer’e held up as work was being done on the boat to rectify a gas leak. But the EA had Red “Caution Strong Stream” warnings all along the Thames so we were advised not to move anyway.

Work was finished by Saturday lunchtime and the new Boat Safety Scheme Certificate was issued. More good news was that Red warnings were being changed to Yellow “Stream Decreasing” at Chertsey so we set off for the boat and spent Saturday Night aboard so we could leave at first light on Sunday morning.

We set off at about 0830 Sunday morning, we only had a short distance to go to get to the first lock (Chertsey), so arrived before the lock keeper came on duty. We had to work out how to operate the lock ourselves, not too difficult but after a bit of headscratching we figured it out and got though the lock, leveing just as the lock keeper arrived (always the way isn’t it?)

Chertsey Lock, Sunday 21st

Chertsey Lock, Sunday 21st

The next part of the journey went well. Passing though Penton Hook, Bell Weir, Old Windsor, Romney, Boveney, Bray and Boulters Locks with the Red warnings very conveniently changing to Yellow before we got there. It was going well, although we were going against the flow of the river, which was still flowing quite quickly, so the boat was working hard and we were going slower than we could have but no real problem.

Then we arrived at Cookham lock at around 1600 to find it was still on Red warnings. So we had to stop. No big deal, but we did have a couple of hours of light left so it was a shame that we couldn’t continue but we were hungry anyway so, found a local pub and had some dinner and a couple of beers.

We didn’t plan an early start Monday as we would have to wait for the lock keeper to come on duty to see if the river warnings would change. Spoke to him at 9ish. The warnings didn’t change. So we waited.

Waiting at Cookham Lock

And waited.

Still Waiting at Cookham Lock

And we continued to wait.

and we are still waiting

As you can see from the pictures the river looks like a millpond. but thats only in the lock cut. You could hear the water going over the nearby weirs though, a lot of water.

At about 1600, 24 hours after we arrived, we get the all clear – the Red warning had changed to yellow so we could continue to the next lock, which was still on red.

What a waste of a day.

So we make our way to Marlow lock. its forward progress and at least we will have a bigger choice of pubs to get dinner. When we get there we have to go though the lock and past the weir (the dodgy bit) to get to moorings for the night.

Moorings in the Park above Marlow Lock

Next morning I have to make a decision. do I wait another day or continue in the hope that the red warnings will change to yellow as we go again? I decide that we need to get there. The longer I leave it the more likely it is that I will have to get the boat out of the water and have it transported by road.

I am sure there were other distance signs along the river, but this was the only one I noticed.

The trip to Temple Lock is uneventful, as is the trip to Hurley Lock except for the very last few meters, we have to cross a very strong weir stream just before entering the lock, a bit of extra power required so we don’t end up getting pushed onto the river bank. Warnings are still Red for the next couple of reaches but they are starting to come off further up the river so I decide we will continue.

Its wider than it looks!

After passing though Henley and under the bridge (which isnt as small as it looks) we get to Hambleden Lock once again we cross the strong current from the weir but this time there is no lock keeper on duty so we have to stop and operate the lock to continue. For some reason it was really cold here. not sure why, it warmed up again after we left. Maybe it was just me.

By now there are only a couple of stetches with Red warnings on and they are further up river so it’s all working out well and we get through Marsh, Shiplake and Sonning Lock (The WORST Kept Lock on the Thames, overgrown and cigarette ends everywhere), arriving at the Kennet and Thames Marina at lunchtime where we fill up with diesel then on to Caversham, Mapledurham and Whitchurch Lock before mooring for the night just below Goring Lock. It was getting dark when we moored up so no pictures.

We ate in the Bull pub, a short walk over the bridge and up the hill in Streatley, very nice pie and chips. The Beer was good too 🙂 not too much though, early start tomorrow, alright maybe just one more 🙂

So its now Day 5 of 3 and we are running out of time. We both need to be at work the next day so we start as soon as its light and are quickly through Goring then Cleeve lock only a few minutes apart. Next the reach to Benson lock, longest gap between locks so far at an hour and a half.

Through Benson lock and Day’s lock and once through Clifton lock we are on part of the river I have been to before, its all down hill from here mind you technically speaking its uphill but you know what I mean…

We are now on the last reach of the river that is still on red warnings, but its actually not as bad as some of the parts of the river we went through on Yellow. Now we make it through Culham lock and then Abingdon (with a brief stop to look for fuel, only open place has a queue so we leave it for now).

One more quick stop in Abingdon. While on the way I got a new follower on Twitter, so we stopped to wave hello to @workboatpug

Now we just need to get through Sandford lock.

We arrive at the last lock, and the one we have to get through before the 1st of November at about 1530, Iffley lock. Never have I been so happy and relieved to get to a lock!

Iffley Lock

Finally get to the marina at about 1630 on day 5.

It might not sound much but it really was quite a way to go and although not as relaxing as all the other trips we have had on the Thames it was enjoyable.

Next time I do a trip like this I will wait until we get some nice weather and make sure I have more time to do it in.

Once in the marina it was time for some shore leave and a few cocktails in our favourite restaurant The One Bar and Restaurant

Cocktail Time!


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