Thursday 8 June 2017

Sandford Lock

Godstow to Sandford Lock
June 2017

We spent the night half beached overlooking Port Meadow, a 350 acre flood meadow given to the people of Oxford by King Alfred, still used as an area of common land and recreation to this day.

The Perch, Binsey

The expanse has seen many activities over the years, including an encampment for Charles the 1st army, horse racing, skating and even as a temporary recovery site after Dunkirk. But perhaps it is best remembered for its role in the meeting of Fair Rosamund and Henry the Second with whom he fell in love, much to the displeasure of the queen. Rosamund was given an option of poison or the nunnery and wisely chose the holy orders at Godstow.

Binsey Church

But the area continued to cast its romantic spell and the stretch of the Thames from Folly Bridge to Godstow was regularly rowed by Charles Dodgson, taking with him Alice, the daughter of the Dean and her two sisters. It was at Godstow Lock that he first told them his story about Alice Underground, a tale later published as Alice Through the Looking Glass.

The treacle well

Binsey cottages

We actually moored near The Perch public house and decided to take a walk into Binsey, which is a tiny hamlet including a handful of cottages, The Perch thatched pub and its little Norman church. The church is notable on two levels: 1. Its grounds contain a well which were long held to have healing properties but became known as the Treacle Well in Carroll's writings and 2. its first incumbent was Nicholas Breakespeare who went on to become the first and only English pope. Not a lot of people know that...

 The illuminated walk to The Perch

The Thames Jarome style

Then it was off down the blustery Thames and through Oxford. All went well till we reached Folly Bridge, a bridge in two halves which both land on the central island which used to contain a mill. I have usually taken the right hand channel but on this occasion found three large red barrels moored in the stream - but no notice or warning signs. I edged into the cut on the Oxford side of the Head of the River and lined up with the navigation arch. Immediately beyond. A Salters steamer was moored stretching nearly all the way across and then, just at the worst possible time, a plastic Bermuda cam barreling into view. I hit reverse and fortunately there was a gap in the steamer moorings into which the oncoming boat dived.

  Folly Bridge
The Heads of the River

Then it was on down the river, with the wind howling in my face and rain beating a steady drum beat on the butty sheeting. As we approached Sandford Lock both the wind and rain increased in intensity so by 3.00pm I gave up and moored. Instead we fired up the gennie and printed off the labels for the 250 jars of preserve we had made over the last few days.

As I sit here typing the wind has died, the sun has emerged and the forecast looks good for our trip into Abingdon.

No comments: