Tuesday 28 June 2005

Honey - Oxford to Long Wittenham

Tuesday 28th June 2005
Oxford to Long Wittenham
Oxford Canal and Middle Thames

17 Miles
7 Locks
7 Hours

We woke to the rumbling of trains setting off from Oxford Station. After a mile or so we stopped again at the park by Bridge 240 to go and get supplies. Pearson showed a shop a couple of streets away and whilst their range was small it carried an eclectic mix of deli type goods for an affluent market. From there it was a short trip to the End of the Oxford and Louse Lock - the last narrow one of the trip.

Finally, we were out of the shallow, narrow canals and onto the Thames and wow does it seem deep and wide. Honey is a bit of a basket case of a boat and suddenly having metres of water under her fragile keel felt precarious. If honey sank she would just disappear.......
No sooner had we entered the Thames than we stopped at Osney Locks to purchase a months river permit. I had visited the Environment Agency's website and brought along the nearly expired BSC document to support my claim that Honey was riverworthy. In the event a pass was issued and through we went.

The run out of Oxford is fascinating, past the huge and impressive university boat houses which line the banks. From the off the Thames reeks of money. On through Iffley and Sandford Locks before emerging into a featureless landscape of scrub and electricity pylons. This bleak reach concludes with Nuneham house, site of Victoria and Alberts honeymoon and then Abingdon, the ancient and rather beautiful market town.

The rivers wanders around, stretching the "crow flies" 2 miles to nearly eight before reaching Clifton Hampden. Tiring of the non progress we decided to call it a day just beyond Clifton Lock and turned back up the Weir stream which is navigable for a mile or so and provides access to the moorings at the foot of The Plough's gardens. We wandered up to the pub for a drink returning just before the heavens opened for a summer storm. When the downpour ended and we emerged we found the boat covered in thousands and thousands of drowned flies - surreal!

The rain broke the heat and we settled to a quiet night, bobbing around for our first night on the river.

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