Tuesday, 31 July 2007

History lesson.

Still moored above Osney lock.

This morning was another late start, this sleeping in business is becoming a bad habit. However the day is fine with clear blue skies. The river appears to have dropped marginally overnight but there is still a very strong flow.

I went for a walk this morning to the marina to deposit what we had pumped out last night. That was my exercise for the day as it was the best part of a mile.
While outside chatting to the neighbours Ray the lock keeper came by with news that the red boards MAY be down graded to yellow by the end of the week. He was going to check the sluice on what they call Castle Mill stream next to the jail. This stream is the original course of the river Isis and back in the 1700’s it used to get blocked by rubbish and dead animals. Even these days the lock keepers still have trouble with supermarket trolleys, bikes and unwanted household appliances being dumped there and blocking the sluice.
At Osney there used to be a monastery and it is believed that the monks dug what is now the Thames from the Botley road bridge to the Osney lock. Osney lock was built by the inmates of Oxford prison at the princely sum of £700. The EA staff has been out with their monitoring gadgets just up stream from where we are moored and report that the river is flowing at 1.5 feet a second so for any of you mathematicians out there what’s that in MPH or Knots?
Opposite Osney lock is the shell of a large building which used to be a flour mill. It apparently burnt down in 1949 and what out buildings remain useable is what is now Osney Marina .There are still bits and pieces of the old mill machinery inside some of the buildings to this day.

The other building opposite our mooring with its very ornate brickwork used to be a power station. The locals used to come and bathe in the hot water from the cooling discharge pipe. These days part of the building is being used as an industrial research centre.

I have just returned from a wee stroll to find that one of the pigeon chicks has found his wings and is now perched on a window ledge above the nesting hole. We have been watching mum and dad pigeon flying down to the hole but not feeding the chicks so we guess they were trying to encourage the chicks (squabs as they are known) to leave.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Maintenance day.

Still moored above Osney lock. (maybe for some time)

We had nothing special planned for today except Peter, Pam, and Dot wanted to visit the Ashmolean which is a museum and art gallery.
As I don’t find this sort of museum particularly interesting and I had jobs to do on the boat such as checking batteries, diesel, greasing rudder and generally checking out the engine I stayed behind.
The only other problem we have being stuck here is the emptying the toilet. We have a pump out toilet and we cannot get anywhere near a pump out facility.
This morning I went for a walk around the industrial estate to see if I could find some containers in any rubbish skips that might be around. I struck lucky when I found a skip by a printing works which had plenty of 15 litre containers with clip on lids. I borrowed 2 (they can have them back if they want them) together with the spare cassette to pump the holding tank out into and then take them round to the Elsan at the marina closeby. This will not empty the holding tank but will lower the level and we will have another go next weekend if still here. Luckily we have a self pump out kit that we can pump the tank out with. Not the sweetest of chores but one that must be done.

The saga of the pigeons intensifies. Two white chicks and the 2 adults feeding them are normal grey/blue colour. However tonight we saw daddy pigeon with this all white adult presumably female on the ledge above the hole with the chicks. A little bit of hanky panky me thinks or do pigeons look after other birds chicks.

Sunday, 29 July 2007


This morning we received a text message from postman Pete telling us to meet a Dr Poole at the Lodge of Green College for a tour of the college (university). We found the college easily. Green College is only 1 of about 50 odd colleges in Oxford which make up Oxford University.
Dr Poole as it turns out is another Kiwi who originated from Invercargill and has been in Britain since 1955. The current vice chancellor of Oxford University, John Hood is also a Kiwi. Where would they be without the Kiwi’s?
Dr Poole was waiting for us and gave us the history of the college which is the newest college in Oxford even though it was built in the 1700’s. Originally set up to study astronomy the colleges telescopes etc; were shipped off to South Africa and the college changed to medical science and it was here that Penicillin was first developed before being shipped off to the USA for further development.
Lord Nuffield of the motor industry fame has had a large financial input into the college and its development.

Talking about the motor industry how about this unusual mode of transport. The old Reliant comes to mind but I think this might be a home made job but very well done.

We were then taken up the old Radcliff Observatory building. This was a privilege because only certain personnel are allowed the keys to this building and it is here that a wedding was due to take place this afternoon. We had to climb a circular stone staircase up to the second floor and then a narrow steel stair well up to the observatory.

The all round view of Oxfordshire was stunning and the weather couldn’t have been better. One view was of the flood plain to the North which naturally is completely under water at present. It is a massive area and will take quite some considerable time to drain.

This afternoon we have seen a Tiger Moth flying around the area and the fire brigade launched their rescue craft presumably for a training exercise. They went downstream quite rapidly but the return upstream proved not to be as easy as they fought again the current and turbulence.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Getting back to normality.

No Really!

After another late breakfast Peter and I did another water run. Firstly from the tap behind the pub, this is closer than the lock and several from the house opposite when the lady of the house returned from the shops.
After lunch we wandered into town for a few provisions and a look at what was happening around town.
The water levels are down quite d
ramatically in most places but the river itself is still flowing very fast.

The weather has been great today but as I write this at 4.30pm I can see more rain clouds massing on the horizon. Let’s hope the strong winds will blow them away before they dump their load on us.
There are still a few cameramen and 1 film crew still hovering around like vultures waiting for something to happen but I think they have missed the bus so to speak.

Beat That!

Pete the postie popped by on his way past with an interesting proposition for tomorrow so watch this space to see what excitement befalls us. I can tell you this much that a Kiwi is involved in what Pete has planned.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Sunshine Hooray.

After another peaceful night we awoke to sunshine, blue skies and a stiff breeze. Hopefully this will help to dry the land out and get rid of surface flooding. South St is now passable with water just laying in the gutters. The fire brigade is busy pumping water out of storm water drains straight into the river.
The overall river level hasn’t dropped as much as we would have hoped overnight but it is dropping. People are still passing by here on the way to work wearing their wellies (gumboots) but by tomorrow they should be able to revert to wearing shoes again.
We are still getting messages of support and concern from various sources. One in particular from our caravan club friends in NZ Peter and Elaine McCawe who was more concerned about our liquor supplies than water supplies. It’s OK Peter, both pubs have been accessible throughout the whole ordeal.
Another text message just received from n/b Aotearoa to say that they are unlikely to be able to move for about 2 weeks and they will have to travel south to the Grand Union junction at Brentford. Reason being that Culham lock on the Thames is rumoured to be have been damaged and could be out of action for 4 weeks.

Pidgeon update

We have just received an email regarding the well being of the pigeon chicks that we posted on our blog recently. Thankfully the water didn’t rise high enough to endanger them and Mum and Dad pigeon are still feeding them. We don’t think it will be too long before they take their first flights as they have been coming to the entranceway to exercise their wings and they have a full compliment of wing and tail feathers. There won’t be any room for error when they do take the first flight otherwise they will wish they were ducks.

Sleep at last.

Last night we went for a walk to see what was happening around town. When we reached the bridge we could hear what sounded like a party or some sort of festive activity. We found Radio Oxford had a car playing loud music and a mobile hot dog stand giving away free hot dogs. The fire brigade had also set up their own canteen where they could get hot drinks and soup.

We finally managed to get a good night’s sleep with all of us sleeping in this morning and having a very, very late breakfast. After checking our water tank we found we still had about 300 litres but we would need to top up if we were all to have showers. As we only have 1 x 5 litres bottle we had to think about what we could carry more water in as the water tap is 500 yards away down by the lock. I remembered we had 2 x B &Q buckets which hold 10 litres so we gave them a good scrub up to make them more hygienic. As I started to walk down to the lock a lady from number 12 which is opposite our mooring asked if I wanted water. When I replied yes she invited me in to fill the buckets in the kitchen. Between Peter and I we ran a shuttle backwards and forwards across the road and soon had another 100 litres safely aboard.
While doing the water a young lad came to the door with free editions of the Oxford Mail daily paper. He gave me a copy and my interview was reported on page 2. We also had an email from Australia to say that they had seen our boat on the TV news over there. With all this publicity we will start to get a feeling of notoriety.
Ray the local lock keeper came along this morning with a smile on his face and the good news that the water level is definitely dropping. He thought that the river had dropped an inch between the time he got up and breakfast time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody for their phone calls, text messages and emails with messages of concern about our wellbeing and offers of help.
It is now 1pm and we can see a definite change in water levels. Bones from n/b Bones has just popped in for a coffee and check up on our well being. Nice to see you again Bones. This week end Bones has volunteered to help Maffi on n/b Milly M do they Caen flight so we have been giving her some tips on how best to achieve this. Good luck you two.
Damn and blast, its 2.30pm and it has just started to rain quite heavily which is not what we need right now. It is also getting quite blustery. A good afternoon to get the cross stitch out or watch a DVD, decisions, decisions. We were just thinking, when did we ever find the time to go to work. It’s a tough life this retirement business.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Its dropping.

After a wander around the area to see what’s happening and get off the boat for a while I met Ray the lock keeper and he said that the river had dropped an inch over the last hour or so. Hopefully without any more heavy rainfall things should start to improve.
There seems to be a lot of conflicting information being bantered around at present regarding water levels, drinking water, and possible power cuts. The radio station is saying that if the information is not from an original and legitimate source ignore it, i.e. power companies, councils or Environmental Agency.
Now on a lighter note I would love a quid for every time the bow of our boat has been photographed by amateurs’ and professionals alike with the bow wave that is being created by the strong flowing river.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Keeping a watch

While moored here for the last few days we are checking on the river levels by watching the bricks on the building opposite. In the wall there is a disused pipe where Mum and Dad pigeon have their babies. We were worried that if the levels came up too far then they have little hope of survival.

The photo shows how far above the river level they were yesterday,
they are now one and a half brick rows closer to the river level.
Hopefully levels will not rise anymore.

Sea of camera’s.

Somebody got it badly wrong because from what I have heard the 2 foot surge should have been a 2 inches rise in water levels, a bloody big difference if you ask me. It makes a total farce of this morning’s evacuation operation.

Everywhere we turn around here we are getting cameras and microphones pointed at us with foreign camera crews as well as British. Dot has just been interviewed by the local radio station. There are also helicopters buzzing around overhead probably with camera crews aboard. It’s making it difficult trying to catch up on some shut eye

We shall not be moved.

At 11pm last night we were preparing for bed when 2 Oxford City Council trucks (Lorries) arrived with 10-15 ton of sand bags. Within minutes people appeared from nowhere to help place the sand bags all down the edge of the river bank. Peter and I did our bit and got out there and helped for an hour or so.

We had been advised yet again that the flood level would rise again over night so none of us slept well. However at 3 am we heard the police knocking on all the doors along the street advising householders to evacuate as a 2 foot SURGE was imminent within the next hour. I don’t know why they persist in using this terminology ‘surge’ because it just gives the wrong impression of what is really going to happen.

Dot popped her head up to the window and was spotted by a policeman who came over to give us the same story. We of course said we would stay aboard. After some thought Dot and Pam decided that they would leave and go to the evacuation centre but found out that they would be bussed miles away so they opted to wait on Botley Road bridge until after the deadline hour had passed to see what happened. While waiting on the bridge they were interviewed by BBC World service and Peter took a coffee and biscuits up to them to keep them going.

Peter and I stayed and after re arranging our mooring ropes we went along the line of boats to help others. During the course of the morning more sandbags arrived and a major sand bagging effort got under way on the opposite side of the river where not much had been done up until now.

By 6 am there had been no noticeable difference in the water level alongside the boat and the girls decided to return to the boat complaining that it had been quite cold up on the bridge.
We then had an early breakfast and the other 3 then got their heads down to try and get some shut eye. I stayed up because by this time I was wide awake and I could carry on monitoring the water level.
While wandering around outside I was approached by a reporter from the Oxford Daily Mail requesting an interview so not to be out done by the girls I agreed. I even had my picture taken. The reporter also passes stories on to the Times newspaper which sometimes run his stories.
It is now nearly 9am and the water level alongside the boat is still the same as it was 5 hours ago so somebody in the EA or the emergencies services got it wrong. Sure the river is now at its highest since last Friday but it has not overflowed the bank yet.
Unfortunately South St and a few others have succumbed to flooding coming in from the allotments and the drainage channel around the other side of Osney Island but the road way along side the boat is still dry. The fire brigade has been working franticly all night to keep water out of power sub station on Osney Island because if that goes down a lot of Oxfordshire will be without power.

It’s still rising.

Nine pm and it’s all on around here. Police are advising boaters to abandon ship but we along with the other boaters are all determined to remain aboard to look after our boats and property. They have now sandbagged all along the side of the boats but I’m not sure what good that will do. There is plenty of low lying land around here that will succumb to the water long before we are going to be in any serious trouble. The water is going to have to rise by over 2 feet before any major headaches arise and that won’t happen instantly.

We have had offers from local residents if we have to leave the boat but by then their problems will be far greater than ours.

South Street is now starting to flood with water coming up through the storm water drains.

We have had a visit from the narrowboaters on the bottom end of the Oxford who were concerned about our well being and they have also offered assistance if required.

When will it end.

Well Ray the lock keeper got it right as far as the street staying dry at midnight but he has told us that there was 12mm of rain in the Cotswolds last night and more rain forecast for this afternoon. There is still a lot of water up in Gloucestershire and Warwickshire on fields and paddocks which has yet to drain away so we are not in the clear yet. This situation could last for another 4 – 5 days.
There is a small amount of flooding around the corner in South St and another side street and the water level is now rising.
3PM and I have just returned from a look see around what they call Osney Island. Things are starting to look serious now.

There is no way we can get under this bridge for the foreseeable future.

The allotments are now completely devasted and water is pouring through onto Botley road.

The car and cyclist travelling through flooding coming up through storm water drains.

The brickwall at the end of South st is becoming a concern as there is 2 – 3 feet of water behind it and the council is trying to shore it up.

Car park? More like a submarine base.

Last time we were here the 5 arched bridge just had a trickle in the centre channel, now look at it.

More photos


A local resident sitting on his sandbags whiling away the hours
and the tune "Stormy Weather", waiting.....

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

No change yet.

Still moored above Osney lock.
547 locks, 677 miles, 18 Tunnels, 37 swing bridges and 10 lift bridges since Nov 2006

By midnight there had been no change in the river level so we both tried to get to some sleep. At 4 am I was awoken by heavy rain but after a quick check on water levels which were still unchanged I went back to bed.
When we first moored up here I put in 2 mooring pins for added protection and as usual marked the pins with shopping bags so people didn’t trip over them. This morning a lady was walking past the boat with her dog which decided to leave its little package alongside the boat. The lady then removed the bag from one of the pins to collect up the doggie doo. Now full marks for cleaning up the doings, but what a cheek to pinch our bag. If you take your dog for a walk you should be prepared and have a plastic bag with you.

While listening to the radio reports, EA still keep shifting the goal posts now saying that the peak will hit this afternoon. Just to give you some idea on the rate at which the river is flowing it is reported that there is 90.000 gallons a second going through here at present.

Peter and Pam Fletcher from the NZMCA in NZ have now arrived to stay with us but sadly it looks like we may not be moving for a while but the’re quite happy with the situation.

2pm and the river hasn’t risen any further and EA report the river levels up at the head waters are starting to drop, here’s hoping. They have every sluice and flood gate open from Lechlade to the Barrier at Greenwich so it’s just a matter of time now.

I am just listening to the radio station talking to 2 boaters at Abingdon and Babcock Hythe who are stranded on their boats unable to get off their boats. The latter reports that they are drifting off the river on to the field which is five feet under water as are 4 other narrow boats and 2 cruisers. They are trying to keep themselves on the river but it’s not easy. They only have enough food and water to survive 2 or 3 days.

One of the cruisers has been left by its owners but has broken its moorings and is hanging on by one rope. Considering this we have no problems here and can think ourselves very lucky.

If you want to see the carnage at Banbury have a look at this BBC Oxford site.
5.30 pm and the lockie has told us that if the road alongside us is still dry by midnight we hopefully we will have cracked it. EA are saying 3.30am tomorrow so who will be proved correct. My money is on the lockie, go Ray.

Monday, 23 July 2007

So far so good.

We have had another visit from Pete tonight to see how we were managing, along with many gongozzlers waiting for something to happen. He took a couple of photos down here earlier today. It is now 9.15pm and the water is still only up to the bottom of the wooden ledge (they keep shifting the goalposts and they are now saying midnight) so it looks like the street may not get flooded after all. Well not yet anyway.
The policeman suggested that the longer it takes the water to peak the lesser the impact the flood will have. So lets hope he's right.

Another sleepless night.

The latest flood notice is that the Thames will peak in Oxford at 6.30pm and will be at peak until 9 am Tuesday. Ho hum, such is life.
We had a visit from another unknown blog follower, Pete, an Australian living here in Oxford. Check out his sites nice to meet you Pete. Some great pictures on his blogspots.
Residents of the street are still in party mode sitting out in the sunshine, socializing, and waiting for something to happen. What is alarming is the parents bringing their families down to the riverside to gawk at the river and allowing the kids to run around too close to the river bank. If one of them falls in it will be goodnight nurse as they would be swept away so fast they wouldn’t have a hope to save them.

Crunch time.

1pm and there is no change in the river but more rain clouds are appearing on the horizon. We now have a helicopter hovering overhead probably carrying a news team so we may be on TV tonight.

2pm and I have been approached by Sky TV News to do an interview which I did standing on Botley road bridge. We have also had the police call again taking names and a head count and telling us to go to the railway station should we need to be evacuated.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Bobbing along in the swell.

Still moored above Osney lock.
547 locks, 677 miles, 18 Tunnels, 37 swing bridges and 10 lift bridges since Nov 2006

As time ticked by last night we had several visits by the fire brigade and the St Johns Ambulance emergency team. Sand bagging was still being carried out at midnight. Dot took first watch while I had a nap.
At 1am we changed shifts and I went out and adjusted the 2 bow ropes so that I could make some fast adjustments if needed later.
2 am and there are still a lot of houses in the street with lights on so there must be a few concerned residents unable to sleep tonight. The river level is no higher than it’s been in the last 24 hours. A guy has just walked past who I think may be a lock keeper as he was wearing a life jacket so the situation is being monitored closely. The next 2 hours are supposed to be the critical period.
4 am and all is well and Dot has taking over flood watch. The river is still at the same level but is running very fast.
There was a beautiful sunrise this morning with lovely blue skies. Gongoozlers with cameras abound up and down the street since about 7 am.
9 am and the radio station is broadcasting that water at Kings lock is higher than the 2003 flooding levels and high water level at Lechlade hasn’t peaked yet. There is flooding in villages all around us but we haven’t suffered any YET.
9.30 am and the water level has risen by about 6 inches and the radio station is keeping a constant flood watch running.
The allotments about a mile or so up river from here are now flooded which are about the same height above water level as where we are but there are sluices between here and there.
11 am and the river has dropped marginally going by our marker on the building opposite. The fire brigade have been up and down the street again and if you didn’t know any different you would say the street appears to be carnival mode with all the neighbours standing around out in the street chatting. Gongoozlers just keep on arriving walking up and down the street as if there was going to be a visit by the queen or something similar. The Botley Rd bridge is amass with gongoozlers taking photo’s and videos of the river surging
under the bridge.

We are still awaiting the peak, more to come later.

Floodwatch - All night vigil.

Still moored above Osney lock.
547 locks, 677 miles, 18 Tunnels, 37 swing bridges and 10 lift bridges since Nov 2006

This morning we took advantage of some fine weather for a trip into town. The crowds were over whelming to the point where there was no enjoyment in doing any sight seeing. We did manage to find our way to Isis lock to check out the conditions on the Oxford canal which although high in water were calm.

No go area, the red boards are up on the Thames

This afternoon we had a visit from a very attractive police woman who has been going door to door along the street warning residents that EA have posted another flood warning for the area. The river is supposed to rise later tonight and peaking some time early tomorrow morning. Householders have been boarding up their front doors in anticipation of what might be to come. If the water comes up high enough to flood the street it will be a rise of 18” to 2 foot and we will have to be on our guard to adjust mooring ropes.

Rising flood waters

The mooring pontoon below Osney lock is now underwater with levels still rising

The lock keeper feels certain that it won’t come to anything but there are no certainties in these matters. So it looks like we will be keeping a 1 on, 1 off all night watch.
The fire brigade has just done a surveillance visit. Hopefully we won’t require their services but we are making preparations should evacuation be necessary.
There are a lot of nervous people wandering up and down the streets on both sides of the river watching the river racing past.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

It’s raining part 2.

Still moored above Osney lock.
547 locks, 677 miles, 18 Tunnels, 37 swing bridges and 10 lift bridges since Nov 2006

1730hrs and I have just returned from a walk down to the lock. As I suspected the locks are on red boards and the lock keeper told me that the river came up very fast and took everybody by surprise. He said that providing there is not too much more rain the situation should improve in the next 48 hours.
Listening to the radio traffic report I am picking that there will be thousands of commuters getting home very late tonight if at all.
The internet towpath telegraph is working well. Andy on n/b Khayamanzi was planning on a trip to the K & A from Rugby and requested info from anybody in the area. John and Fiona on n/b Epiphany knew where we were and sent Andy an email. Andy has checked our blog and is thinking of a change of plans or at least he will when he reads my email to him.
Tonight is going to be a sleepless night with the noise of the water racing around the boat and swirling around the corner of the building opposite.

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old mans snoring.

1 Lock, ½ Mile, Now moored above Osney lock.
547 locks, 677 miles, 18 Tunnels, 37 swing bridges and 10 lift bridges since Nov 2006

The weatherman has got it right this time because it has been raining since about 11pm last night. When we arose this morning we could see that the river had already risen quite a lot. After breakfast I donned my wet weather gear and went for a walk to check out mooring availability above the lock. There were several slots available with 3 boats about to depart leaving plenty of space. One of these boats was a hire boat who wanted to go through the lock, wind below the lock and come straight back up. He was a bit concerned about casting off because of a yacht, minus mast, moored in front of him. So being the good Samaritan I gave him a hand and then went back to Gypsy Rover to await his arrival through the lock.
Two cabin cruisers had gone through the lock earlier but one of them broke down in the lock. They managed to restart it albeit coughing and spluttering and he coughed his way down to the railway bridge where he hoped to fix the problem.
We eventually got up through the lock but mooring up against the fast flowing river was tricky as we had to come into the mooring under power avoiding the moored yacht.
We are now comfortably moored listening to the local radio station reporting on the devastation going on around Oxfordshire with thunder storms, flooding, school closures and a forecast of up to 100mm/4inches of rain before the storm abates. Storm water drains are not coping with manhole covers being lifted by the pressure of the water.
1600hrs and we have just heard that the Oxford canal has been closed between Napton Junction and Banbury with the towpath being over 2 foot under water. The radio has been non stop with problems arising all over the area. Now First Great Western trains are reporting problems with all trains in or out of Paddington and are taking passengers to hotels to make them comfortable until the situation improves. Stations all over the system are being closed due to flooding.
It has been the highest rainfall in one day for forty years and the emergency services are stretched to the limit.
From our mooring we have been able to watch the level of the river rise and fall as more water arrives from further up river and the EA lock keepers open more sluices to get it away. I am picking that yellow boards or even red boards have now gone up as the water is racing past the boat at a head spinning rate. Hopefully the situation will improve over the next 72 hours and we can get away from here.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Lovely weather.

3 Locks, 8 Miles, Now moored below Osney lock.
546 locks, 676½ miles, 18 Tunnels, 37 swing bridges and 10 lift bridges since Nov 2006

So far the weather man’s prediction of heavy rain and storm conditions has failed to materialize but not wanting to get caught with our pants down so to speak. As much as we would have loved to stay longer in Abingdon we decided to take advantage of the sunny weather and cruise on up to Oxford.
The journey was very pleasant with hot humid conditions which caused me to change into shorts and strip off the T shirt for a while. We passed an amazing fleet of Gondola’s of various sizes manned by men and women young and old. The last 2 boats were flying flags that we did not recognize and the language being spoken was definitely not English.

Tonight the weather man has re-issued the severe storm warning but the sky gives no sign of foul weather yet. We have spoken to the lock keeper and he is not aware of any flood warning being issued so far but he did say to move above the lock if conditions deteriorate, in the meantime I won’t hold my breath waiting.