Monday, 18 September 2017

Abingdon to Oxford

Tue 12th Sep  Abingdon to Rose Isle

After a great weekend in Abingdon, and a wet Monday, we decided to head for Oxford.

As we set off upstream, we started to come across the red and green cones which mark the channel if there are shallow areas. We therefore went nowhere near Abingdon Weir, but went straight for the lock, which we had to ourselves.

Abingdon Weir

Abingdon lock

Above the lock there was a queue for the water, as there always is. The next water point upstream is at Eynsham, 6 locks and 14 miles away, or 5 hours.  Downstream it is Cleeve Lock, 5 locks and 18 miles away, even further.  Hakuna Matata was using the hose, and Tui was waiting. Meanwhile we emptied the rubbish and 3 cassettes, before taking our turn with the hose.

Some moorings we like near the Swift Ditch were all full. We noticed Salaga moored there. He seems to like to moor in out of the way places.

Then there was the long reach up past Nuneham House.  Some boats were coming the other way, and it turned out to be Ian and Betty on Yum Sing, followed by Terry and Chris on Barley Twist, from Byfleet Boat Club.  They had been to Ripon. A few minutes later another one came down the river – Zavala, with Brian and Margaret.
Yum Sing

Barley Twist


When we arrived at Sandford Lock, there were two boats already inside and the gates were closing.  The lock keeper beckoned us on and opened the gates again, so we joined the others, one of which was Hakuna Matata.

With Hakuna Matata in Sandford Lock

St Johns College Barge

We decided to moor before Oxford, at a place called Rose Isle, where the river does a small zig zag, and the dog walking path goes through a meadow instead of past the moored boats.

Moored at Rose Isle

Hugo caught a mouse, and we had heavy rain later

2 locks, 5 miles, 1 mouse

Wed 13th Sep  Rose Isle to Osney Bridge

Morning sun at Rose Isle

James had arranged a telephone appointment with our doctors surgery in Aylesbury as he was getting headaches, and thought he could pop in there when we hired a car for our church weekend in a few weeks time.  The call came precisely at 1110 as promised.
When the doctor heard the symptoms he suggested seeing a doctor today.

James phoned some medical practices and made an appointment for 3.30pm in Oxford later that day..

We waited for a rain shower to pass, and then, as we were preparing to set off, a hired cruiser went past. We were a minute or two putting down the hood and pulling up our mooring pins.

Hinksey Stream, one of the many small side channels of the Thames in Oxford.

We arrived at Iffley Lock to find it was on self service and they were closing the gates on us. Plenty of room in the lock. Perhaps they didn’t see us.  The lock keeper appeared and saw us, but it was too late by then. He took over, and locked them through quickly and reversed the lock for us.

Another Oxford College barge

We cruised up past all the college boathouses, and were hoping to find a mooring below Folly Bridge.  There was one space, so we pulled in and moored up.  We then discovered that the towpath was closed between our mooring and the bridge, so we wouldn’t be able to go shopping from here, or get to the folk club on Friday, or get to James’ appointment. 

We spoke to a man on one of the boats nearby, who said he was renting his boat from someone who says he has permanent moorings along here. Because the boats don’t move, they don’t need a licence, he said. That also means they don’t need a boat safety certificate. It all sounded very suspect, and some guy with some scruffy old boats is making some money that he shouldn’t.  We were always under the impression that the moorings were council short stay visitor moorings, but they obviously don’t monitor this length at all.

Rented boats

We had spotted a space much further back,opposite the college boat houses,  where another footpath left the towpath and connected through to the Abingdon Road, well serviced by buses, and we thought we might try that for Friday.

Footpath closed

Folly Bridge

We undid our mooring lines and moved through the north channel under Folly Bridge as the
south channel was closed. 

Hugo on the lookout.

A challenging Keep Left sign

An old railway branch used to cross the river to service a gas works. It was built in 1886, and closed in 1960.  It is fairly ornate, and there are photos online of the bridge in use, and a section being floated on barges during the construction.  Now it is used as a footpath, and today a young fearless lad was walking along the parapet.

Gasworks Bridge

We cruised up to Osney Lock, which was also self service, and the top gates had been left open, we guess by the hired cruiser from earlier.

Osney Mill

Osney Lock

When we arrived at the moorings by Osney Bridge we spotted Petroc moored up.  We thought we had left them behind in Abingdon, but apparently they had left us behind instead.

There were no spaces large enough for our boat, so we tied alongside an Anglo Welsh hire boat, thinking that they would probably move off  later and we could take their place.

Hazel stayed with the boat while James went for his 3.30pm appointment at a Doctors surgery in Beaumont Street. He saw two doctors, who were very efficient and helpful.  They took a blood sample, and did some other tests. They wanted another opinion from the opthalmology department at the John Radcliffe Hospital, so James was sent off there with a letter in his pocket, plus the blood samples.  There had been very heavy rain, and the pavements were all wet, with very large puddles at the side of the road.

To find the right bus was a challenge, as there are no “Where to board your bus” lists on the bus stops. He had to ask a driver, who said it was a number 14 bus.  There was a 25 minute wait for the next one, during which time he was chatting to a man at the bus stop about Canal Ministries.

When he arrived at the JR Hospital, he got off the bus at the bottom of the hill, as did everyone else.  He was looking for the main entrance, but all he saw was the West Wing, and the Childrens Hospital. He saw that A & E was at the top of the hill, where the bus had gone, so he walked up about three blocks, and enquired at A & E reception.  “Oh you need to go down the hill to the West Wing, and up the escalator.”

So he had a long walk back down the hill, and into the West Wing. There was an unmanned reception desk. There were no signs pointing to the Opthalmology Department.  So he went up the escalator, where there were signs to ear, nose and throat departments, and the Oxford Eye Hospital where he went to seek directions.  He found another unmanned reception desk, and no-one about.

A lady came out of a corridor pushing a trolley.  “Are you looking for someone?” she said. “Is there anyone on reception?” he asked. “I am looking for the Opthalmology Department.” “Oh, this is the Opthalmology Department, but they have all gone home. We are closed”

He explained the situation and showed her the letter.  She disappeared and returned with a another doctor who thankfully said “Ah, we have been expecting you”.

So then there were more tests and prodding about. He was given a prescription for some steroids. The probable diagnosis is something called Temporal Arteritis. The symptoms are sudden shooting pains up behind the left eye and in the left part of the head.

He took another bus back to the city centre, where he found a branch of Boots that was open.  He had been prescribed 60g of the steroid, but Boots only had 5g tablets, so that means 12 pills at once, plus another two to avoid side effects.  James so far takes no regular medication – now it is fourteen pills all at once daily.

The tablets obtained from Boots

Then he took another bus back to Hazel on the boat below Osney bridge, where the boat was now bankside, as the hireboat had left.

We tried the pub that used to be known as the Watermans Arms, which used to provide huge helpings of home made pub food such as cottage pie and ham egg and chips.  It has changed, and is now called the Punter, and has gone for an up market menu, although the surroundings are still basic.  We noticed that no-one was eating.

We left and found a kebab shop, and ate on the boat, along with James taking his fourteen tablets.

2 locks, 3 miles.

Thu 14th Sep  Osney Bridge to Christ Church Meadows

Moored near Osney Bridge

The moorings here are 24 hours, and we needed a few days, so we set off downstream  to moor below folly Bridge, where we had seen a space yesterday opposite the boathouses.

We departed early, saying farewell to Geoff on Petroc as we turned the boat in the mill stream opposite their boat.

Farewell to Petroc

Virginia Creeper

Back through Folly Bridge

Moored opposite the boat houses

We went into Oxford via a footpath to Abingdon Road, and a bus to St Aldates, where it terminates.  We visited the Covered Market, where we saw some amazing decorated cakes being made.

Cake art

We called in at the Tourist Information for a map, and then had a lovely Thai lunch in a side street. We visited the Hotter shoe shop to collect some shoes Hazel had ordered. Then we visited the Natural History Museum.  Here are some glimpses of our day in Oxford:

Some corners of Oxford

 Natural History Museum.

We had a bit of a search for the right bus and bus stop to get back to the boat. Eventually we had to go to St Aldates to catch one. Got on a number 300 park and ride without realising that it doesn’t stop after crossing Folly Bridge. James had to persuade the driver to let us off. The traffic was stop and start anyway, so he didn’t lose any time.

Back on the boat it was a cold evening, so we lit a fire.

Hugo caught a mouse.

1 lock, 1 mile, 1 mouse

Fri 15th Sep  Oxford Christ Church Meadows

We didn’t need to visit the city today, so we did some sorting out.  James took everything out of the bow locker, and found some coal and some kindling, and stowed everything again.

He tightened an alternator belt which had been squeaking.

We sorted out some songs and went to the Oxford Folk Club which meets in the White House pub, walking distance from our mooring. It was singers night, with an extended spot from Graham Metcalfe.  Everyone got just one song as there were eighteen floor singers. We sang “A Long Way Down”. Graham was very traditional, using just his voice. He had a very broad Yorkshire accent and we couldn’t understand most of what he said or sang, but he had a great deep voice, and was a warm character.

Graham Metcalfe

Apart from two other guitars, a banjo, and a strange Swedish instrument, and us, everyone sang unaccompanied. A very traditional folk club.

We won a box of chocolates in the raffle, and then walked back to the boat in the dark.

No boating today.  1 mouse

Sat 16th Sep  Oxford Christ Church Meadows

There was no rain in the forecast so we decided to take no brolly, no coat, and no torch, as we thought we would be back in daylight.

We took a bus to St Aldates, and met our BCF friend Anne Clarke at the Odeon cinema and reserved our seats for 2.45pm, for the new film Victoria and Abdul.

We went for lunch at Bella Italia, where they were advertising a set lunchtime menu on an A-board outside. When we asked to see this menu they said it was for Monday to Friday only. They were oviously embarrassed by this, so they let us choose from the set menu anyway, and we noticed they took in the A board. The food and service was excellent.

Anne and Hazel outside Bella Italia

We had time to spare before the film, so went to visit the Craft fair in Broad Street, which we were told only takes place three times each year. There were some very talented artists there.

Victoria and Abdul was very amusing and well worth seeing.

We had teas and coffees in a cafe, before going to a shop to buy torches, as we needed to return to Thrupp with Anne to collect our post.  Then James realised he had left his hat in the coffee shop, so he went back to collect it. It was on the floor.

We took a bus to the Park and Ride, where to start with we couldn’t find the right car park. Then we spotted it cunningly concealed behind a hedge.  Anne drove us to Thrupp for the post, and then back to a bus stop in Kiddlington where we took another bus to Oxford.

By now it was raining, and we had no brollies. We went to Itsu for something quick to eat, and were not disappointed. It was our first experience there, and will not be the last.  We have often seen the one near Little Venice, which is always closed during the Cavalcade. A missed opportunity from business, as there are lots of people about.

The rain had eased off a little as we took yet another bus from St Aldates down Abingdon Road, and walked through the footpath to the boat.  Our bus passes are really useful!

We lit a fire as soon as we got in.  Hugo was pleased to see us.

No boating today

Next: A visit to St Aldates Church and Sainsbury’s before cruising up stream in the direction of Lechlade for a folk club near there on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Abingdon Heritage Weekend

Fri 8th Sep  Abingdon

It was forecast damp today, so we decided to do some shopping and visit Abingdon Museum, as we hadn’t been there for several years.

We took our leaking gas hose, hoping to replace it at the Chandlery.  Then we discovered that there is no longer a chandlery, and in its place is a new cafe. We couldn’t find anywhere that could supply a gas hose.

The museum is in the upper floors of the town hall in the market place. There are quite a few steps up inside the building.

The place had been completely re-invented about four years ago, and now had an ichthyosaur on display, as well as the last MGB GT to be produced in Abingdon. While were there we picked up a leaflet about Heritage Day, and discovered that many historic buildings were open to the public over the weekend.

The last MGB GT

The view from the top


We also noticed a few changes in the main streets.  There is no longer a Wilko, for example, and the Post Office has now become a Wetherspoons pub called the Narrows.  The old jail, which at one time was the tourist office, is being converted into apartments with restaurants underneath.  St Nicholas Church has not changed since our last visit.

St Nicholas Church and the Abbey Gateway

We decided to get a take away curry, on the way back to the boat.  The portions were huge, so there was enough for two meals.

Storm Clouds over Abingdon

No boating today

Sat 9th Sep  Abingdon to Abingdon

We left our mooring pins in place, as we thought that no boats would be planning to moor up this early and take our place.  We set off just after 8am and locked ourselves through and tied up above the lock to fill the water tank, empty two cassettes and dispose of rubbish.  Nothing was moving, so we decided to leave the top gates open for our return.

Just as we decided to move back through the lock, another boat below wanted to use the lock and they closed the top gates and emptied the lock. We hadn’t turned the boat, so, to be fair, it was not obvious that we wanted to use the lock. By the time they had brought their boat in and were almost up to the top, the lock keeper arrived, so when we finally entered the lock it was operated for us.

Waiting to return through Abingdon Lock

Abingdon Lock Garden
 Mileage Post

We took a Heritage Day leaflet to Gill on Petroc, before going for breakfast at Wetherspoons – Eggs Royale. The last time we were in this building it was the Post Office.

Then we followed the map in the Heritage Day leaflet and visited lots of historic buildings.

Entering the Almshouses

 Inside Christ’s Hospital Hall

Long Alley Almshouses 1446

We had planned to visit the Old Anchor Inn for a folk session on the Sunday night, but someone at the Plough at Long Wittenham had told us that a new owner had taken over, and the session was no longer happening.

Old Anchor Inn

We continued our tour up East St Helens Street visiting several ancient properties.
 The Malthouse

Merchant’s House

Carved beam in Merchant’s House

Medieval wall painting

15th Century fireplace

Abingdon Baptist Church

The baptistry

We had a light lunch at the Brewery Tap, where we found they had Old Rosie cider. Their menu looked good, although we only had soup, served with huge slabs of brown bread.

We looked at five churches as part of Heritage Day, partly in search of somewhere to go on Sunday.  The church we used to attend in a school, Abingdon Community Church, has moved further away to a different school, and is now too far for a walk on Sunday morning.

For our evening meal we had the second half of our take away curry, which was very tasty.  There were some thick clouds gathering as the sun was setting, and we had a very unusual sky.

Pink sky

Angry clouds

Sunset geese

2 locks, 1 mile

Sun 10th Sep  Abingdon

Reflected clouds in Abingdon

We visited Abingdon Baptist Church, and had a most interesting talk from an Oxford professor. He was delivering extracts from a sermon by Daniel Turner, the minister here from 1748-1798. The sermon was about tolerance of differing opinions, particularly about the way we “do” baptism, and that love should bind us together despite our differences.

Afterwards we were hoping for a Sunday Roast at the Brewery Tap almost opposite, but we should have booked as they couldn’t fit us in.

We tried the two Thai restaurants, but they seemed to be closed, so we ended up at Dil Raj, where we enjoyed an Indian buffet.  Indian food three days in a row!  It is just as well we like it.

We went to the market place to join a guided walk to see what was left of the old Abbey. We were told that most of the masonry was removed to build Nonsuch Palace.  All that remains are some monastic buildings, including a remarkable Long Gallery.

Guided tour of abbey remains

Medieval chimney

Long Gallery

Roof beams in the theatre

Unicorn Theatre

A flower festival was taking place in the Long Gallery, representing various stages in Abingdon’s history, including MG production, bun throwing, and the First World War.
 Flower Festival in the Long Gallery

 WWI flower arrangement

The Undercroft

We walked back to the boat just in time before heavy rain arrived.  It was quite chilly, so we put on the central heating.

No boating today

Mon 11th Sep  Abingdon

Rain forecast so we decided not to move.

We went back into the town to stock up. It was market day and there was an excellent fresh produce stall. There was a very long queue for it but we persevered and came away with two bags full of goodies. 

We looked for a butcher but couldn’t find one. We went to the Co-op and the Spar but they weren’t very good. We ended up at Waitrose, which was OK but not wonderful. There was no decent pasty in sight.

We returned to the Brewery Tap for lunch – excellent pies.  Sadly the root vegetables we ordered included beetroot, which James avoids. He should have realised, as the clue is in the name. Next time.....

With a full shopping trolley we returned to the boat.  We had heavy rain later.

No boating today (No pics either)

Next: upstream to Oxford.  Folk Club there at the White House pub on Friday. St Aldates on Sunday.