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A Hot Day In Cropredy
It was a very hot and sticky day on the South Oxford Canal in Cropredy. The sun was high in the sky and my patch of shade was rapidly shrinking. It was far too hot for boating so I thought I'd make a start on the Jottings and tell you about the Thames, while it was still fresh in my mind. The tow-path was so busy that I did a lot more chatting than tapping to begin with as everyone who walked by wanted to stand in my patch of shade for a rest and a chat. I hardly got anything written until late evening, when it was just me and the mozzies out there. It was still 31 degrees in the boat until the sun went down, and not even a whisper of a breeze to ripple the water.
We were incredibly lucky with the weather on our trip from Reading to Oxford, our week went too quickly and I'd be hard pressed to chose my favourite overnight mooring. We were blown into our first mooring in Pangbourne almost by accident. We had intended to call in at Maple Durham but we couldn't get to within 6 feet of the bank and they wanted £5 a night for the privilege of mooring amongst the thick layer of goose droppings! The Captain had to pole us out of the shallows into a fierce cross wind while I did my best to steer us out of trouble. That went OK - hardly any cross words!
It was late on Sunday afternoon before we left the boat and went off to explore Pangbourne. I was looking for the River Pang, famous for its connection with 'Wind in the Willows' and I can see that it would have been a very charming spot in Kenneth Graham's time but it is now blighted by the roar of passing traffic. We had a look in the church and I took some photos of the Elephant Hotel but it was far too posh for two sartorially challenged boaters and their scruffy dog. The Cross Keys looked inviting but only opened from 12 till 4 on a Sunday so we ended up at The George, a 17th century coaching inn, which now overlooks a very busy crossroads in the centre of Pangbourne. We played spot the Ferrari as we sipped our cider outside this very picturesque pub but we were soon choking on the exhaust fumes. We walked home across the lovely riverside meadow and waded through the long grass to get back to the boat- it was a free mooring, so I guess the owner thought he wouldn't bother cutting the grass. We couldn't leave without exploring Whitchurch-on-Thames, just across the river from Pangbourne. We'd read that the pretty bridge across the river was privately owned and was one of the few remaining toll bridges left in England. The toll booth was doing a roaring trade and I wondered if the locals resented paying 60p just to nip to the Co-op.
We were lucky to get another free mooring in Goring. (Look out Pam Ayres - I've started rhyming) It's notoriously difficult to find a space in this popular spot but we arrived early and were lucky to squeeze in behind a yoghurt pot (fibre glass cruiser) We walked into the village and my eye was caught by a display of 'things' hanging on the wall outside a pretty cottage. We turned into the alley and found it was a shrine to George Michael. Hundreds of messages and candles from his adoring fans almost covered the walls and the floor and there were lots of photos of George in his heyday. I still play his 'Songs from the Last Century' album and love his version of Roxanne - RIP George. We walked on past the church, turned left at the little pub and found "Betty's Curio Shop" tucked away in an alley. We spent a very happy time browsing amongst the old books, glassware and china ornaments. I spotted a tiny silver boat and we bought it for my 'shelf of tiny treasures' - each little thing reminds me of a place we have visited on our slow boat to anywhere and we have made lots of very happy memories over the years.
Next morning we made an early start and I went ahead to 'Self Operate' the lock. The Lock-keepers don't start until 9am on the Thames but they very kindly leave the power on so you can work the lock by pressing a few buttons. It makes a very welcome change after the ardours of the Kennet and Avon! A hire boat was moored by the lock and the first mate came over to ask for help to turn their boat - we did our good deed for the day and waved them off towards Reading and we set off through the lock towards Wallingford. It wasn't far and we arrived just in time to slip into a space left by a large wide beam. It wasn't until I tried to get off the boat that I realized we had moored on a high wall and the only way I could get ashore was to step up on the gunwale and sit on the bank then roll onto my knees and stagger at last into an upright position. It's at times like this that I know I need to eat less cake! (Although the Captain eats loads of cake and he springs up and down with hardly any effort at all.) He also refrains from reminding me that I was the one who insisted on mooring on the wall when we could have had a nice spot on the low wall on the other side of the river by the swimming pool. Wallingford must have one of the few remaining outdoor pools left in this country and I wonder how long the local children have left to enjoy it, so many have closed due to the council cut-backs. Oh dear - I nearly drifted into politics there, I don't want to lose any readers who might be offended by the views of this ancient mariner (I'm getting seriously weather beaten in this hot sun!) It was too hot for sightseeing in Wallingford so we found a little pub on the edge of a green park and sat in the shade sipping our cider again. We did linger in the town square on the way back and listened to a couple of buskers on guitar and banjo and I popped into Waitrose for free coffee and some fishy things to go with our evening salad. I wondered if we would have to pay Wallingford council the £5 fee for our overnight mooring. I didn't begrudge it, after all it might help to keep that pool open a little longer!
Our last mooring on the Thames was by the Iffley Lock in Oxford where we were constantly buffeted by the trip boats and entertained by the rowing boats. It was too hot to leave the boat and go into Oxford sight-seeing so Carl did some painting in the bows and I lazed with my book till it cooled off a bit. I've loved our week on the Thames but I'm ready for the narrow locks of the South Oxford and a bit of lock wheeling to work off all the cider I've been drinking.
Have a very lovely week everyone
The Floating Chandlers