Friday, 1 June 2007

Finally underway.

3 Locks 11 Miles. Now moored at Wallingford.
Total of 340 locks, 475 miles, 16 Tunnels and 8 lift bridges since Nov 2006

River conditions had improved slightly overnight but not sufficient to change the signs from red to yellow. After consultations with the lock keeper we decided to review the situation at lunch time. After lunch we were told that the whole river situation was being re-assessed and a decision would be released by 4pm. At 3.30pm the relief lock keeper came down to our mooring and said that the red boards had come down and been replaced by yellow signs so we were clear to move off with care. The weir in flow just below our mooring was very much reduced as we passed through it and the river became quite tame.
Clifton lock was our first lock and the weir in flow beyond this lock was relatively gentle as was the Clifton Hampton bridge which was the main cause of our enforced stopover at Culham. After the bridge there was a heavy flow around the bend which pushed us sideways but extra power solved that problem.
Days lock was the next lock which has a sharp left hand bend as you leave the lock with the in flow from the weir coming in on our right so a bit of extra power was required here. The 4 miles down to Benson lock was a comfortable cruise but the exit from this lock is what you might call exhilarating. The weir and lock are parallel and the weir is at least 3 times wider than the lock. There is a break water running from the lock out into the flow which is about 100 feet long and once you reach the end of this you are basically white water rafting. You have to cross this flow at about a 35deg angle to negotiate the curve of the river and hit it with a reasonable amount of power to stay mid stream. Needless to say it was a bit of a bumpy ride.
We eventually made land fall at Wallingford which is another very interesting little town. On our first attempt at mooring we hit the bottom before we could get in close enough so we moved a couple of hundred yards further downstream where we had plenty of water depth but a high bank alongside us making it tricky getting on and off the boat. After tea we wandered into town which was most interesting. The bridge over the river was only single lane traffic and controlled by traffic lights. When we walked up High St, what else? We found that the road was so narrow that again traffic lights had been installed to control traffic.
All the different styles of buildings and the non conformity of the outlines were present no matter which way you looked. The only blot on the landscape was a brand new Waitrose supermarket in the centre of town which had been designed with a totally modernistic design of glass and concrete and looked totally out of place and character.

Crown Crested grebes are bountiful on the Thames

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