Seven Meters. 10th August

Above Days Lock to above Sandford Lock

A lie in, waking to the sun streaming in through our bedroom porthole. Wonderful.


Sadly the clear blue sky didn’t last long, but at least today we wouldn’t get soaked.

We took our time in setting off, eating up some bacon was on the cards so this came accompanied by a few mushrooms and poached eggs, not a full breakfast so no photo today.

Good views from up there

The two miles to Clifton Lock has long back gardens coming down to the waters edge on one bank and meadow land on the other.

Along quite a stretch there were diggers with a constant procession of dumper trucks. There were too many for it to be a farmer improving drainage and every now and then we came across a culvert from the river. Is this land going to be built on? I’ve had a quick hunt around on line and it seems that there may be a development near to Little Wittenham, but without trawling through pages of stuff I’m unsure. I just hope the views from our mooring are not affected.

Clifton Hamden Bridge

Clifton Hamden Bridge is made of sturdy brick, when built it used to join Oxfordshire on the north bank to Berkshire on the southern, but in 1976 boundaries changed and Oxfordshire engulfed the south bank. The bridge replaced a ferry on the shallow reach of the river where it had been fordable to cattle and horses. But in 1826 on a ceremonial trip from Oxford to London, the Lord Mayor of London’s barge grounded in the shallows here. Weirs upstream had to be lifted to free the barge which was stuck for several hours. This led to the building of Clifton Lock in 1835 along with weirs which improved the depth, but this meant animals could no longer cross so the bridge was built in 1867 designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

Clifton Lock

The lock keeper saw us up Clifton Lock informing us about Whitchurch Lock and it’s broken collar, this was why there were so many Le Boats about, they’d all headed towards Oxford yesterday due to the closure. Looking at the lock gates you can see where recent flood levels have left their mark.

Now we were on the reach where Oleanna had engine troubles two years ago. The river was on yellow boards, stream decreasing. Oleanna was having to force her way upstream and her engine overheated, necessitating the need to lower the anchor shortly after the Appleford Railway Bridge. Link to the post. Today the flow is far less. Mick can now check the engine temperature without having to slide the rear hatch as he’s added a heat sensor to the engine. All seemed as it should be, I still opened the hatch to check the gauge, all good.

Pootling about

At Culham Lock we waited behind a hire boat to go up. The lock is 7′ 11” deep so takes a bit of filling, so we had a wait. Flapping of wings from across the canal from a pigeon who flapped it’s way not very well across the river dipping into the water and eventually landing on our gunnel. It wasn’t happy, maybe it’s wings had got a touch too wet. It made it’s way onto the lock landing and spent an age flapping it’s wings whilst crouching, maybe it was in pain. I considered trying to catch it but Oleanna wouldn’t be the best place for it under the beady eye of Tilly. It managed to fly back across the river into a tree. This is when we noticed what had caused the problem, a mink!

The pigeon managed to fly away, but it’s friend on another branch was very quickly grabbed by the mink, dragged down the trunk of the tree and taken out of sight, possibly into it’s burrow. It took no time at all. After about a minute or two the mink was back out looking for its next victim!

Up in the lock

The Lock Keeper squeezed us in behind the hire boat then brought in another narrowboat alongside. Ropes were adjusted on the hire boat in front, their ropes on the stern not really long enough for the job or depth of the lock. Extra turns round bollards and t-studs for the boat we were alongside, I think we had the best position for an easy ride up.

The queue above the lock was several deep, not enough lock layby for them all to tie to. Was this an early indicator of how busy Abingdon would be?

Once round the bend above the weir the other narrowboat overtook us, forging ahead to grab a space.

Picture postcard

Abingdon came into view, all picture postcard in the sunshine. We spotted only a couple of spaces we’d have tried to fit in, I suspect they wouldn’t be empty for long.

Abingdon Lock

We’d already been told at the previous lock that Richard the Abingdon Lock Keeper wouldn’t be there, he has been suffering from Long Covid for the last year. So I was all prepared to go and press buttons. However a voluntary volunteer (unofficial) was stood at the panel ready to help people through. He was very chatty and warned us of a sunken boat upstream and told tales of a widebeam taking 4 hours to fill their water tank from the tap above the lock.

Not far now

Down to a quarter of a tank we wanted a bit of water, a lady was just waiting for her tank to make the ‘boom I’m full’ noise so we waited, hose out claiming our position in the queue.

23ft long!

We were soon attached to the tap, not too much water going everywhere. Looking at the directions our hose would be too long (as would most hoses on narrowboats), but thankfully we still got water. The pressure here was similar to that at the bottom of Hillmorton. We decided we’d do half an hour and then let someone else have use of the tap, which meant we got to about half full.


A pause for lunch and then onwards to Sandford Lock. After a visit to Abingdon from RCR in 2019 Mick had realised that the overheating hadn’t been solved. He kept to the edges of the river where the flow was less, meaning he could keep Oleanna’s revs as low as possible. Today the bollards below the lock were in view, last time I’d been here they were just peeking above flood water. Today I had to use a ladder to assist getting off Oleanna. Up at the lock I’d been beaten to the buttons by a young chap who was only just tall enough to reach the buttons, his Mum and Dad were waiting for the lock below too.

All went well until he hadn’t seen that we’d been joined by another small cruiser, so he started to close the gates as it was coming through. Plenty of shouting meant he removed his finger from the button stopping the gate, phew!

A good spot for a bbq

An Oleanna sized hole was waiting for us above the lock, just where we wanted to be for the day. What NO trees! The friendly cover’s a bit sparse too. I remember last time when there were six cats who ganged up against me. I’ve been patient all day for you to finally tie up a good outside and this is what you catch! Can we go back to yesterdays outside? Pleeease!!

It’s pants here!

With the sun still being out and a grassy mooring we got the barbecue out. Tilly was allowed to stay out with us for a while even though it was after dingding. I’m sure she just stayed out because it’s normally against the rules, not because she wanted to as she didn’t venture far!

4 locks, 12.09 miles, 1 lie in, 2 poached eggs, 1 squeeze, 1 volunteer volunteer, 30 minutes of water, 18m not 7m, 1 sunken boat, 1 meeting arranged, 2 out of 5 options for another, 2ft 6” lower, 1 button presser, 1 unimpressed cat, 4 veg kebabs, 2 salmon steaks, 1 pleasant evening.

PS The Selby Swing Bridge from the basin onto the canal was lifted out yesterday. It is being sent away to be mended, due back in 12 weeks time. So no stopping to press buttons for a while. Not sure where the temporary footbridge is though. Link to photo